Monday, September 25, 2006

Roilo Golez opposes plan to sell Camp Aguinaldo

Plan to sell Camp Aguinaldo welcomed, hit
By Delon Porcalla and James Mananghaya
The Philippine Star 09/26/2006

House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles welcomed yesterday the proposal to sell portions of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. "That’s a very good idea. It will ease traffic with new access roads. It will raise funds for modernization, it will develop the commercial area and will move military camps outside of the highly congested areas therein," Nograles said of the Armed Forces’ general headquarters. The lawmaker, however, stressed that the process should be transparent. "We must define and make the process clean, transparent and subject to COA (Commission on Audit), Congress and public scrutiny. All processes must be done by legal means and we must monitor closely the sale, especially the proceeds where it will be used and spent," Nograles said.
But as expected, Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, a member of the opposition, slammed the idea. "Why should the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) sell its jewels in order to modernize? The other agencies are not asked to do that," Golez said. "The AFP modernization budget should come from the General Appropriations Act, especially now with the additional VAT (value-added tax) revenue of over P100 billion," he added.
Golez, a former national security adviser of President Arroyo, said the general headquarters of the Department of National Defense (DND) "should not be transferred far from Malacañang for better communication and coordination." "In the US, the Pentagon is only a few minutes away from the White House," Golez cited.
Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz bared last week plans to sell or lease on a long-term basis some military camps, including Camp Aguinaldo, in a bid to raise much needed funds for the modernization program of the AFP. Cruz, however, noted that they have yet to receive proposals from private concessions for the sale or long-term lease of military camps. "It would push through only if there is a good proposal," the defense chief said during the Manila Overseas Press Club forum at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati City Thursday night.
Cruz said he has asked Congress to authorize him to sell or lease the military’s real estate properties as required under the National Defense Act. He said that if plans to sell or lease Camp Aguinaldo push through, the AFP’s major services namely, the Army, Air Force and Navy as well as the DND would have a common headquarters. This could be in Lipa City in Batangas, Lucena City in Quezon or Clark Field in Pampanga. AFP chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said an estimated P50 million could be raised by selling or leasing portions of the 178-hectare Camp Aguinaldo. Esperon said that aside from Camp Aguinaldo, any camp could also be sold or leased such as Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija — home of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, the elite Special Operations Command and the Training and Doctrines Command. Fort Magsaysay is said to be a "candidate" for conversion into an agricultural field. Golez, meanwhile, raised concerns over Camp Aguinaldo, which lies along the EDSA highway, being transformed into a commercial hub. "Converting Camp Aguinaldo into a commercial center would worsen the EDSA traffic. Right now, there are only a few offices and vehicles situated there. Making it commercial would dramatically increase its population and vehicle density," he said in a statement. "With its trees, Camp Aguinaldo is one of the lungs of Metro Manila to help ease the serious air pollution along EDSA. Most of those trees would be chopped down to give way to ‘progress,’" he added.
"And finally, do we really need another potentially graft-ridden mega land deal similar to what happened in the Amari land deal?" Golez asked, referring to the multimillion-peso scandal involving Thai firm Amari, which reclaimed lands along the Manila Bay area.
The Philippine Defense Reform (PDR) program aims to allot P10 billion annually for the modernization of the AFP for the purchase of new and modern equipment for the military’s anti-terror and counter insurgency campaigns. Among the real estate properties of the military that have been sold to private buyers through the Bases Conversion and Development Authority are Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, Camp John Hay in Baguio City, Subic naval base in Zambales and Clark Field in Pampanga, from which the government was able to earn billions of pesos. Cruz said that by directly putting the earnings in a trust fund at the Development Bank the Philippines and the Landbank of the Philippines, the earnings from the sale or lease of military real estate would surely go to the modernization program.

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