Thursday, 13 September 2012

COMMENTARY: Resurrection of Paranial Air Station good for local economy



THE resurrection of the mothballed Paranial Air Station, a radar tracking facility of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) on the mountaintop of Bagumbayan just outside Mambulao, is good news for the local economy.

This is because the PAF personnel and their families who would populate a new community on this breezy summit would be a big plus to the town’s growing consumers of foodstuff, services, fuel, hardware, building materials, furniture and fixtures and clothing.

It is most likely that there would be around 15 to 20 families relocating here once the redevelopment of the air facility is completed and ready for occupancy.

In the late 50s after that mountaintop was demolished to give way to the PAF’s air facility that included a runway, radar tracking station and housing area, about 20 families came later and became part of the community.

All their school age children attended the Jose Panganiban Elementary School (JPES) and in fact, two of them became my classmates in Grade 4. 

One was a cute girl named Flordeliza Trapal, and the other was Antonio Antonio, who, I could still remember, came from Mindoro.
I also remember Sgt Manglicmot, who supervised the construction of a classroom adjacent to the former basketball court and close to the main street. 

Sgt Manglicmot and my young mom became good friends as they were both Ilongo. My mom was an officer of the PTA who helped facilitate the project.

The classroom was a donation from the PAF, which provided workmen as well as earthmoving equipment that was used to demolish a portion of the hillside to pave way for a lot where the classroom was built.

On weekends, at least four truckloads of AFP personnel and their wives and children would come down from their mountaintop lair to do marketing and other errands. 

And the housewives’ invasion of the town market would surely spike the prices of almost everything – from fish to vegetables, from fruits to dry goods and many others – at least for that day.

But in the end, things had been good for the local traders as more currency from the pockets of the PAF families circulated among them, thus benefiting the local economy.

It would not be any different once the families of the PAF personnel who would be assigned to man the air station came to join them.

The exercise of redeveloping the old air facility would be massive and could cost a few million pesos, which, most likely, would be spent locally for building materials, fuel and local labor that would include carpenters, mason and others.

The first item on the redevelopment agenda would be the clearing operations. 
After it was abandoned some 50 years ago owing to reasons I would not know immediately, the facility was raided by people looking for anything of economic value – scrap iron, timber and many more.

Illegal loggers and charcoal makers also came to partake of the huge trees that overwhelmed the area. 

When illegal loggers who operated around the municipality – including Paranial -- disappeared, the charcoal makers descended on the facility for their charcoal wood supplies.

MWBuzz has gathered that there are still some charcoal-making activities in this area.

Remember that this little community was carved out of a thick jungle where the PAF used powerful bulldozers to uproot ancient trees.

Just imagine two giant bulldozers uprooting down ancient, giant trees using a massive steel chain wrapped around the tree trunk. 

This is one reason why driftwood items – from furniture to house decors – flooded Mambulao during the early 60s. 

These wood products were fashioned by local entrepreneurs from the roots of those trees.

A novelty those days, driftwood stuff was a hit, and driftwood craftsmen and vendors made a windfall.

The clearing ops would mean jobs for those who need a temporary source of income. But one thing sure is that, the rebuilding process could take a year or two.

According to my sources at the Gawad Kalinga Osmenia on the outskirts of Mambulao, the abandoned air facility could have been an ideal tourism spot for its breezy environment ideal for eco-tourism activities such as horseback riding and nature-treking-and-watching.

GK-Osmenia, which is just about a kilometer away from Paranial facility, draws its water supply from one of its water reservoirs.

From the facility, one could see the panorama of the Pacific Ocean – main reason this radar tracking station would have to be rebuilt.
A breezy community sitting under the canopy of giant trees is one place that many among us would like to be. It’s just like living in Benguet where the climate is cool and the air is unspoiled.

The families of PAF personnel would be lucky to be in this spot, for they would not have to suffer from bad air such as the one prevailing in the poblacion – thanks to the proliferation of smoke-belching tricycles and dilapidated mini-buses that operate routes to the rural baranggays.

President Noynoy Aquino wanted to revive this air facility as part of the country’s air defense against China, our bully neighbor.

One day, its runway would feel the coming and going of F16 fighter jets that are battle-ready to defend our shores from enemy invasion.
I just hope that our air defense is truly 99 per cent force and only 1 per cent air, not the other way around.

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