AFP welcomes efforts by BCDA to turn war tunnel into heritage and tourist site

March 19, 2012 7:31 am 

MANILA, March 18 – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) lauded on Sunday the efforts of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to transform the Fort Bonifacio Tunnel into a heritage site to honor the nation's unheralded patriots who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of independence and freedom.

Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., AFP spokesperson, said that the Fort Bonifacio Tunnel is an underground passageway located in the eastern portion of Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig.

It used to be the main attraction of the old Philippine Army Museum and Library (PAML) which was relocated as a result of the developments made by the BCDA in the area.

According to BCDA, the project of "transforming the war tunnel into a historical site is part of giving back the honor and dignity to the soldiers in the AFP who are the unsung heroes of our republic, continuously serving the Filipino people to maintain peace and order."

"It is also seen as a means to augmenting our tourism industry which has a direct effect in stimulating our country's economic growth," BCDA said.

Since the former military camp, now known as the BGC, is now a business, commercial and residential district, it is BCDA’s mandate of making worthwhile use of old military structures such as the War Tunnel and other military bases.

Military historian, retired Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguillar of the AFP shared his knowledge on the Fort Bonifacio Tunnel’s rich history.

Aguillar has a working knowledge on the history of the age-old tunnel, and has corrected several misconceptions specifically in its construction period and its laborers.

He also clarified that the Fort Bonifacio Tunnel was constructed almost simultaneously with the Fort William McKinley (now known as Fort Bonifacio) around 1910 and took almost a decade before being completed. This was prior to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s assumption as the Field Marshal of the Philippine Army, thus debunking the claim that it was MacArthur himself who instructed for the tunnel’s construction.

According to Aguillar, the tunnel served as the main supply depot of the northern and southern operations of the U.S. forces against the Filipino revolutionaries.

He said that most of the tunnel’s laborers came from the mining firms in Baguio and Benguet, while the others were Japanese laborers who were later discovered as soldiers spying for the Japanese military.

The original tunnel’s length was about 2.24 kilometers with 32 built-in chambers and two passable exits, one leading to Barangay Pembo and the other to Barangay East Rembo.

Today, amidst the rapid development of BGC, a 730-meter segment of the tunnel remains unaffected, existing underneath the C-5 Road, with its opening near Market! Market!

The tunnel serves as an underground pathway and can be found at the eastern portion of BGC.

BCDA president and chief executive officer Arnel Paciano Casanova said the project aims to contribute to the people’s understanding and appreciation of the history of the former military camp.

He also pointed out that the conversion of the old military structure into a heritage site will also contribute to the country's tourism industry which, he said, plays a significant part in stimulating economic growth.

“Along BGC's world-class development, BCDA plans to rehabilitate, develop and convert the old tunnel into a historical site in BGC that will showcase the city’s rich and unique heritage as a former military baseland,” Casanova said.

Responding to BCDA’s move, the AFP chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa, expressed his gratitude and appreciation on behalf of the men and women of the military service.

“The soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are honored and truly grateful for this undertaking by the BCDA. The dedication of this heritage site is a valuable recognition for our soldiers. 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,” he said.

This initiative by the BCDA comes very timely as the Philippine Army will be celebrating its 115th founding anniversary on March 22.

The war tunnel plays an important part in the Army’s rich history as it traces its roots to the Filipino revolutionaries who resisted allegiance to foreign rule. (PNA) scs/PFN


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