A technical working group has been formed to review the development of a military reservation in Tarlac, protect the welfare of the civilian community, probe alleged military abuse, among others.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued Memorandum Order No. 52 creating the new panel to be led by the Department of National Defense for the Col. Ernesto Ravina Air Base (CREBA).
The vast airbase, formerly known as Crow Valley Gunnery Range in Capas, Tarlac, was previously used by the United States military for its bombing and gunnery exercises.
The area, spanning around 18,000 hectares, has been utilized by the Philippine Air Force for aerial combat training, that includes live firing and bombing exercises since 1999. It is also one of the venues of the joint military exercises between Filipino and American troops.
“To consolidate, study and comprehensively address all issues and concerns pertaining to the utilization and administration of, as well as the policies and mutual covenants among the stakeholders relative to the Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base (CERAB), and to ensure interagency coordination, a Technical Working Group (TWG) is hereby created,” the Palace order read.
Members of the TWG are the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Housing Authority, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Philippine Air Force, the municipal government of Capas, Tarlac; and three affected Barangays Bueno, Marugulu, and Santa.
In the latest order, the Palace directed the TWG to “discuss the issues and identify applicable regulations relative to the repair, rehabilitation and construction of houses, public school, evacuation center, tourism building, materials recovery facility, and other public works.”
The task group is also authorized to review existing and future agreements governing the rights and obligations of various stakeholders as well as those involving ongoing or proposed construction or development with CERAB. It must also determine the impact of such development and resolve any conflict arising between the civilian community and military reservation.
The Palace also tasked the TWG to protect the welfare of the civilian community within CERAB, including the indigenous peoples residing in the area. It must ensure the “peaceful co-existence and harmonious relations between them and the military personnel.”
The group is also assigned to “investigate allegations of abuse committed by the military, determine if any violation of the law or rules has occurred.” It must also provide support and assistance to any aggrieved person and recommend suitable action against the erring personnel.
The Palace likewise assigned the DND-led panel to thresh out details and oversee the implementation of the payment of “disturbance compensation” to farmers who were forced to abandon their lands and crops to make way for the development of CREBA.
The new panel is likewise expected to submit regular reports and recommendations to the Office of the President.
The order, signed on March 10, took effect immediately. A copy of the order was posted on the Official Gazette on March 22.
Back in 2018, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana justified the planned relocation of civilians from CREBA. He maintained that it was a military reservation used for bombing and gunnery exercises so civilians were not allowed to set up a permanent structure in the area.