Sunday, March 23, 2014

Army general wants Fort Magsaysay included in BCDA master plan

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija – The leadership of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division housed inside this military reservation is proposing that the camp be covered by the development plans of the Bases Conversion Development Authority which is crafting a master plan for military camps in the country.
          Brig. Gen. Vic Castro, acting 7th ID commanding general, said that the reservation, originally spanning 73,000 hectares but is now down to only 45,837 hectares, is not covered by the master plan of the BCDA.
          “I hope that this camp be included in the base development plan of the BCDA so that its development can be fast-tracked,” Castro said.
          He said if that is the case, the military reservation – located 20 kilometers apart from Cabanatuan City and the provincial capital Palayan City - can become a hub for economic activities given its vast potentials.
          Castro made the proposal even as the BCDA has earmarked P120 million for a master plan for the partial development of Camp Aguinaldo and other military camps.
          BCDA president and chief executive officer Arnel Paciano Casanova said they are talking with the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces in securing the survey and title for the lands as well as preparing the master plan where it needs to invest in infrastructure in the long-term and the various camps into revenue-generating projects that would provide funding for the modernization of the military.
          The BCDA is mandated to transform former military bases into alternative productive civilian use.
          Among those being considered for sale, lease or upgrading by the BCDA are the 33,220-hectare Camp Peralta in Capiz, the 1,925-hectare Camp O’Donnel in Tarlac and the 42,000-hectare Camp Kibaritan in Bukidnon, all owned by the AFP.
          The goal is to help modernize these camps, which have idle or unused areas that could be tapped fro either redevelopment for mixed-use purposes or to create livelihood in the countryside, particularly for camps located in the provinces.  
          Castro said the reservation, which houses the general headquarters of the 7th ID covering 13 provinces in Luzon, was visited recently by DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo to look into possible economic opportunities inside the camp.
          “We are open to future projects here at Fort Magsaysay,” he said, adding that initially, projects on tap include the setting up of a 3,000-hectare bamboo plantation and plantation for jathropa.
          Castro  said one of the key components of the development of the camp is its conversion into a premier tourism destination. He said the provincial government of Nueva Ecija led by Gov. Aurelio Umali and its provincial tourism office has pledged to help in its promotion as a tourist spot in the province.
          During the term of then-commanding general and now Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) commanding general, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, he proposed various activities to enhance tourism inside the camp among them wall climbing, trekking, hiking, mountain biking, camping, motocross riding, 4x4 offroad-driving, horseback-riding and water sports activities such scuba diving, wind surfing, jet skiing, beach volleyball and parasailing in the camp’s coastal areas in Dingalan, Aurora.              
          Among the reservation’s tourist attractions are the historic Aquino-Diokno shrine, the Heroes Memorial, the Pahingahan complex, the golf course, the Kaugnay clubhouse, the Mount Taclang Damulag and the camp airfield.

          The shrine was where President Aquino’s late father, former senator Benigno “Ninoy6” Aquino and ex-senator Jose Diokno were placed under solitary confinement from March 12 to April 11,1973 after nearly six months of detention in Fort Bonifacio. – Manny Galvez   

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