Press Release
September 26, 2006

Proposal to convert Aguinaldo into govt center backed
* Govt budget for office rent to double to P5.2 B next year
* Golf-playing officers told : Give up swing for a fighter wing

A senator has backed the proposal of Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz to dispose Camp Aguinaldo but rejected an outright sale of the prime177-hectare Quezon City headquarters of the Armed Forces, saying a lease is superior because government ownership wont be ceded.

Sen. Ralph Recto lauded Cruz for thinking outside the box.

Recto said the defense chiefs proposal to lease out portions of Camp Aguinaldo to government offices has merit because next year alone the national government will be spending P5.2 billion in office rent, or double the P2.7 billion allocated for the same purpose this year.

Many government offices in Metro Manila are just renting space in private buildings, Recto pointed out. They are dispersed, so converging them in one place would make them more accessible to the public and promote better coordination among themselves.

Recto said converting hard assets into cash would reduce militarys dependence on revenues and the result is that money earmarked for defense can now be used for education and health.

Or put it this way : We are trading bullets for books, he added.

Instead of sitting with nothing to do for lack of equipment, the military might as well tap the prime real estate where military camps are sitting on for their equipment needs, Recto added.

The only conditions are that the conversion of Aguinaldo for civilian use must be transparent, COA-approved, and the proceeds clearly earmarked for AFP modernization to prevent a repeat of the past when the money from the sale of Fort Bonifacio did not immediately go to AFP modernization as intended, Recto said.

He was referring to the sale of choice Army bases in Metro Manila more than a decade ago, as mandated by Republic Act 7898, but proceeds of which did not immediately translate into shopping money for new military hardware.

While Cruz is at it, he may wish to consider putting some golf courses inside military camps on the auction block, for lease or sale. These are assets that can be unloaded up front. After all, these are segments of camps not devoted for a military function, Recto said.

"Our officers will have to give up the privilege to shout 'Fore!' for the right to shout 'Fire!' They have to give up their swing for a fighter wing, Recto said.

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