Manila is forever, Villamor Air Base is not

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Oct 15 2015 05:58 AM | Updated as of Oct 15 2015 06:05 AM

Lest I am misunderstood, I do not and never did put forward the idea and possibility of replacing Manila as the nation’s capital and its immediate environs, known as Metro Manila, abandoned as the National Capital Region. The seat and symbol of the Republic will and must remain in our "distinguished and ever loyal Manila.”

However, the disastrous burden of an uncontrollably teeming population in union with all the facilities that 21st Century advances in information and communications technology have made available now render many agencies and instrumentalities of national government an aberration and irrelevant as to their present locations. Meaning, they can exist elsewhere, still ever relevant to their objectives and ultimately be of even greater service and beneficence to all. I happen to swear by the belief that decongesting Metro Manila will deliver the greatest good for the greatest many!

There are indeed a myriad of occupancies that no longer require a Metro Manila presence, both in government as well as in the private sector. These have been the focus of our advocacy that hopefully will lead to the programmed humane decongestion of Metro Manila and consequent intelligent population dispersal. This to be jumpstarted by the Armed Forces of the country as already posited and wished for.

READ: AFP faces 'Bayan o Sarili' moment: Saving Metro Manila

Let me then proceed some more with this continuing advocacy, with a plea that all caring souls regard the endeavor as truly a worthwhile apostolate. Pro Patria. It is also about time that this issue be elevated to the forthcoming national electoral debate, to be an inevitable discourse by individuals who proffer their services as the next Chief Executive. Who among the “Presidentiables” possess the fortitude to do battle with this hydra-headed malaise? For starters, they must accept and recognize that Metro Manila has already taken the contours of being our most acute national problem. Perhaps, the costliest to solve, but the most rewarding if addressed and subjugated.

ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES

As usual, only in the Philippines.

No other country in the world but the Philippines insists on having the General Headquarters of her Air Force, the Villamor Air Base, inhabit the very same limited area occupied by its international gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, sharing the same runways and taxiways, the same congested egresses and ingreses, to and from the vicinity.

Unceasing complaints daily accost the authorities about the gross inadequacies that punish arrivals and departures, domestic and international, silently admitting that there seems to be no recourse in sight! And always thinking of other locations. The authorities obviously appear helpless and in fact clueless, unaware that the very solution to the NAIA area congestion and tightness lies under their very noses!

Evidently, it is beyond the imagination and ken of the relevant government authorities to think, to imagine beyond and out of the box. Imagineering, as we are wont to call it. Imagine what space will be opened and harnessed into productive socio-economic service, for new roadways, in the very least, and who knows, let me hazard a guess, even an additional runway if Villamor Air Base were to relocate.

AN OLD MEMO TO FVR

Let me quote from a 1994 memorandum addressed to President Fidel V. Ramos: “B) Manila is the only metropolis in the world that is both surrounded by and has within its confines military camps and headquarters of all branches of service. It is an urban aberration. The country’s principal international and domestic airports even share vicinity and runways with the Air Force.” (quoted from a memorandum to the President proposing “THE NEED FOR A NATIONAL URBAN POLICY COVERING THE DECONGESTION AND DISPERSAL OF METRO MANILA: RATIONALE AND SAMPLES,” and suggesting the creation of a Presidential Urban Policy Study/Task Force.

Obviously, the very well-intentioned initiative never enjoyed the attention being cried out for as early as twenty years ago!) As we can all see, the malaise of Metro Manila was not unforeseen. Unfortunately, sadly unmet. Simply because of the absence of actionable foresight!

IMAGINE NAIA MINUS VILLAMOR

Imagine.

Let us apply a little utilitarian touch to this pretzel represented by Villamor Air Base. You know, that “greatest good for the greatest many” principle, never losing sight of the fact that the desired alternative use, being the expansion of NAIA through Villamor’s transfer and vacating their present location; and that NAIA is revenue generating while Villamor is not.

And, oh btw, Villamor has a 60-hectare, Par 72 18-hole golf course, whose entrance is by the Air Base’s frontage that opens to the South Express Way, just after Magallanes. I must not fail to mention that across the highway (SLEX) from Villamor’s golf course is another smaller golf course, this one belonging to the Philippine Navy. (I promise to say something about the Philippine Navy’s presence in Metro Manila, next time.) All these lands are part of our national patrimony. They belong to the nation. Therefore, for the good of the greatest many!

Throwing in these golf courses into a dreamed of NAIA expansion will partake absolutely of benefits to millions more against the worldly, selfish inconvenience of a mere several hundreds of golfing regulars, for whom farther golf courses can be designed anyway. (Bayan o Sarili? Or have we forgotten it so soon!))

In my fanciful imagineering, let me take an audacious stab. Removing the Philippine Air Force GHQ to a location away from Metro Manila, throwing in the two aforementioned golf courses into the mix of the newly available space, perhaps a new runway for NAIA can be designed and constructed, one that runs on top/across the SLEX to connect to the Navy and Army areas across the highway (towards the western edge of Bonifacio) from the rest of the expanded NAIA. Similar civilian aviation facilities are found both in the Dallas and Houston International Airports. That is, runways across and above, with the highway running underneath. In other words, the wheel need not be reinvented. The technology is a tested reality. An operating sample exists.

Hindsight is always 20-20. Anyway, please imagine that had Villamor not been held sancrosanct and had the Air Base been relocated elsewhere much earlier, maybe there would have been no need to erect all those skyways that cut above and across our airport area.

Imagine “the greatest good for the greatest many” that Villamor Air Base can gift Metro Manila and the Nation with by simply relocating and establishing a new Air Force town, a self-contained economic unit with people and payroll, business and social activities, employment and support services and others, new wealth creation ancillary to civil aviation. (I am not in the business of selling bridges but I have a couple of highly viable sites available for the new Villamor Airbase. Abangan!)

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