Friday, March 16, 2012

Old war tunnel in Bonifacio Global City to become historical site

MANILA, Philippines – An old war tunnel in Bonifacio Global City, formerly part of Philippine Army headquarters Fort Bonifacio, will be turned into a historical site in recognition of the history of the former military base, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority said Thursday.
In a statement, BCDA president and corporate executive officer Arnel Paciao Casanova said that the project aims to enhance the Filipino’s understanding and appreciation of the history of the former military camp.
“Along BGC’s world-class development, BCDA plans to rehabilitate, develop and convert the old tunnel into a historical site in BCG that will showcase the city’s rich and unique heritage as a former military base,” Casanova said in a statement.
Since parts of the former camp was transformed to BGC—now a bustling business, commercial and residential district—the BCDA, a government owned and controlled corporation, has been tasked to oversee the preservation and find use for old military structures like the Fort Bonifacio War Tunnel.
The War Tunnel, built by American soldiers upon their arrival in the country during the early 20th century, originally measured 2.24 kilometers and had 32 built-in chambers and two passable exits—one leading to what is currently Barangay Pembo and the other to Barangay East Rembo—according to military historian, Retired Brigadier General Restituto Aguilar.
Of the original structure, only a 730-meter segment of the tunnel remains unaffected and can be found under the C-5 Road in the eastern portion of the BGC, with its opening near Market! Market!
Aguilar said that American military strategy included the construction of tunnels which they use as re-supply point.
“Basta Amerikano may pupunta silang unit, pupuntahan silang lugar at i-develop na kampo automatic sa kanila na may tunnel sa ilalim. Anywhere around the world standard yan sa Amerikano,” Aguilar said.
The tunnel used to be open to the public and hundreds of people use to come to the area to visit.
“Para ka ring pumunta sa Malinta Tunnel. Same ang design,” Aguilar said when asked why it was a popular location before. Aguilar added that the same US corps of engineers that constructed the Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor Island built the Fort Bonifacio tunnel sometime around early 1910s.
He also clarified claims of some historians that it was General Douglas MacArthur who had instructed the construction of the War Tunnel since it was built decades before the Second World War. Many of the laborers who constructed the tunnel were employees of mining companies in Baguio and Benguet while there were also Japanese laborers who were later discovered to be soldiers spying for the Japanese military, Aguilar said. He added that the tunnel served as the supply and logistics route of the American soldiers.
Aguilar said that the old Philippine Army museum used to stand near the War Tunnel however, the tunnel was closed down when the BCDA took over the former military camp sometime in the mid-90s in preparation for the land’s conversion to an economic zone. Meanwhile, the Army museum was moved inside what is left of the Army camp.
When asked if he is in favor of opening the tunnel again to the public, Aguilar said that it is possible but noted that security must be tight since the structure is over a hundred years old and may pose as a risk.
He added that the tunnel is located somewhere between 150 to 200 meters below the ground and was not cemented or made of concrete.
“Hindi sya konkreto kasi ang ilalim ng Fort Bonifacio ay adobe,” Aguilar said.
For his part, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa commended the BCDA for undertaking this project.
“The soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are honored and grateful for this undertaking by the BCDA.  Dedicating a heritage site can be considered a valuable recognition a soldier can receive,” Dellosa said in a statement.
“We hope for the success of this endeavor so that it may benefit both our country’s economic growth and the people’s sense of historical appreciation,” the military chief added.