Councilor urges transfer of 4th Infantry Division 

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 15 July) — The recent explosions at the 4th Infantry Division in Barangay Patag here last Tuesday have reignited calls for its transfer elsewhere and to turn its land into a bustling economic zone.

Councilor George Goking, chair of the City Council Committee on Trade and Commerce said Camp Evangelista poses “a major risk” since the military complex sits inside Barangay Patag, a heavily populated village of 17,941 residents.

Goking said the huge military complex with its 5,573-yard golf course, is best suited for economic zone conversion that could spur the development of Cagayan de Oro.

“The camp has outlived its usefulness because the entire area is now heavily populated. Considering what happened last Tuesday, it would do more harm than good, “ he said.

The explosions at the “ammo dump” inside Camp Evangelista, headquarters of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division,” roused Kagay-anons from their sleep. Contributed photo

An ammunition dump, or where the military stores live ammunition and explosives caught fire in the early hours of Tuesday, sending huge fireballs into the sky as thousands of ammunition exploded 

A ‘chemical reaction’ may have triggered the incident. “If gunpowder is exposed to a certain environment, it may trigger a chemical reaction that may lead it to be unstable,” said Lt. Col. Vladimir Sta. Maria, commanding officer of the 10th Forward Service Support Unit responsible for the storage and safety of the explosives and ammunition of the 4thID. 

In a press conference attended by Army Chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner, Jr. on Tuesday afternoon, Sta. Mariasaid this was the initial finding from the testimonies of soldiers who witnessed how the explosions at Magazine No. 5 started. But Sta. Maria did not expound on the topic, noting that it was too technical a discussion. He estimated damages at Magazine No. 5 at P27 million.

Three residents were injured and at least 150 families fearing for their safety, evacuated to the covered court in Barangay Patag and Army gym inside Camp Evangelista.

Brawner said he is against the transfer of  the 4th Infantry Division to another location.

Brawner said the 4th Infantry Division is a vital link in the defense of Mindanao.

Mindanao hosts five of 11 infantry divisions in the country: aside from the 4th ID, it is also home to the 1st ID in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur,  the  6th ID in Awanga, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao;  the10th based in Mawab, Davao de Oro and the 11th based in Jolo, Sulu.  

“The location of the 4th Infantry Division is gifted with excellent airport and seaport capabilities,” Brawner said.

He said this was underscored during the Marawi siege in 2017 when Camp Evangelista became the hub of munitions and equipment shipped from Manila.

Army Chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner, Jr. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

Brawner said the camp also has the Camp Evangelista Station Hospital, the best medical facility for soldiers injured in battle in Northern Mindanao.

Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez also does not like the idea of transferring the 4th Infantry Division to another location.

“Its presence here gives needed security to Cagayan de Oro against terrorists. It helps our community by giving much business to our markets and stores,” he said.

Rodriguez explained that hundreds of families of soldiers who live around Camp Evangelista will be dislocated if the 4th Infantry Division is transferred.

Retired Army Lt. General Ronald Villanueva supports the idea of transferring the 4th Infantry Division to Mt. Mayapay in Butuan City.

Villanueva, who formerly commands the 4th Infantry Division said the idea of transfer found support from then Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who ordered Army planners to draw up plans.

He said Mt. Mayapay is one of the military reservations of 4th Infantry Division. The other one Villanueva said is the Kibaritan military reservation in Kalilangan, Bukidnon.

“The problem with the Kibaritan military reservation is that it will be a logistical nightmare because it is not accessible to a nearby seaport and seaport,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva said Mt Mayapay on the other hand , is close to the Bancasi airport in Butuan City and the seaport in Nasipit town, Agusan del Norte.

He said proceeds from the sale of Camp Evangelista can finance the transfer of the 4th Infantry Division and retirement benefits of its soldiers.(Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)