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Air Force relocation from Clark sought

CLARK FREEPORT – Calls for the relocation of the Philippine Air Force contingent stationed here have been renewed amid the proposed transfer of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Clark.

“The continuing occupation of part of Clark by the PAF virtually makes a garrison state of the whole Freeport, which is detrimental to the climate of investment in the area,” said the broad-based advocacy group Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement.

In its advocacy for the “full operationalization” of the Clark airport as premier international gateway since the early 1990s, the PGKM has made the removal of the PAF from Clark as a “pre-condition.”

“Only in the Philippines, only in Clark at that, can one find military contingents and war materiel dumped in a Freeport and an international airport. What message does impart on foreign investors, on tourists? That Clark is a war zone,” the PGKM said. “And what businessman in his right mind would come to a war zone?”

“The removal of the PAF from Clark is the first order of the day for the transfer of NAIA,” the group furthered.

Last October 10, Transportation and Communication Secretary Manuel Roxas II disclosed the planned airport transfer at a Senate hearing.

This after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile inquired about updates on the government’s North Rail project and raised the possibility of transferring the international airport to Clark once the project becomes successful.

“It will be beneficial to the country because it will link Central Luzon, specially Clark, with Metro Manila. We can transfer the international airport to Clark and leave the present international airport for further development,” Enrile said.

Roxas said the 440-hectare NAIA, if privatized, would raise up to $2.5 billion in revenue for the government, which “in effect will pave the way for the transfer of the airport to Clark.”

Roxas’ proposal was lauded by the PGKM and Mabalacat Mayor Marino Morales, hailing it as “A most welcome development. A long dream coming to fulfillment.”

“The aviation industry will soar with Clark as the premier airport, unfettered as it shall be by the vested interests of the Manila-centric imperial dragons,” the PGKM said in a statement then.

For his part, Clark International Airport Corp. President-CEO Victor Jose Luciano expressed “total support” to Roxas.

This, even as he himself disclosed plans of an investor to construct more hangars that could accommodate wide-bodied aircraft at the DMIA complex. He, however, declined to give details about the project pending the finalization of contracts.

Oust PAF

The “oust-PAF-from-Clark” sentiments have time and again cropped up through the years with other groups such as Move Clark Now and even the Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as local elected officials joining the PGKM in issuing calls for PAF to be relocated out of Clark.

Sometime in September 2008, Col. Francisco Cruz, then commander of the 600th Air Base Wing, announced on local television that PAF was preparing to abandon the 300 hectares it occupied in Clark and move to its old base in Floridablanca town even as it builds a new one at Crow Valley in Tarlac.

Cruz however clarified that some P8 billion is needed “to pull out and transfer personnel, equipment and infrastructure from Clark.”

“We are just waiting for the master development plan to be finished before we could proceed with the pull-out of personnel,” Cruz said then, this even as he added that a small PAF contingent will remain stationed at Clark even after a pull-out “for security purposes.”

The PGKM said it is not averse to a “civilian-military joint use” of the Clark aviation facilities.

“We have this at Mactan, Davao and Zamboanga. We can live with it at Clark. But not the PAF’s virtual occupation of the Freeport and highest presence at the airport,“ the PGKM said.

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http://www.philstar.com/nation/article.aspx?publicationsubcategoryid=200&articleid=739814

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