Philippine World War-2 Tunnel of 32 Chambers makeover Bid to Boost Tourism

32 Chambers 2.44 Kilometer Philippines - World Wa-II heritage Tunnel in the Fort Bonifacio (Bonifacio Global City) Taguig

Recognizing the need to preserve heritage and raise people's awareness of history, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) yesterday said plans are now afoot to develop and rehabilitate the little known Fort Bonifacio tunnel in Taguig which saw action during World War II.

BCDA President and CEO Arnel Paciano Casanova said the planned conversion of the war tunnel into a heritage site will also contribute to the country's tourism industry.

Cassanova said the project will also greatly to contribute to the people's understanding and appreciation of the history of the former military camp, Fort Bonifacio, now known as the Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

The BCDA and the Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation (FBDC) are joining hands to develop the old military structure, which was first dug up by Igorot miners in the early 1900s upon the directive of General Douglas MacArthur, who had served as military adviser to former President Manuel Quezon.

Currently, the BCDA said they are looking at the structural integrity of the tunnel and sustainability of the project.

"Preserving the heritage of Fort Bonifacio and incorporating its heritage and history in the development of BGC is what makes BGC a cut above other cities," said Cassanova.

"Bonifacio Global City is the fastest growing commercial, business, and residential district in the country today. It is the home of passionate minds. Equally important is the rich history that is incorporated in Bonifacio Global City's development – giving it a soul," he added.

"We are also preserving our heritage site and this is part of our contribution in raising the awareness of our people on the contribution of our armed forces, particularly our soldiers in preserving the freedom and the liberty and democracy in this country," said Cassanova.

The Fort Bonifacio Tunnel, an underground passageway located in the eastern portion of BGC, dates back to the American colonial period when it was first constructed during World War II to serve as military headquarters and storage of war supplies.

The original tunnel's length was about 2.24 kilometers with 32 built-in chambers and two passable exits, one leading to Barangay Pembo and the other to Barangay East Remo.

Today, amid the rapid development of Bonifacio Global City, a 730-meter segment of the tunnel remains unaffected, existing underneath the C-5 Road, with its opening near Market! Market!

Cassanova said the Fort Bonifacio war tunnel will position the country as a bastion of freedom and democracy in the whole of Asia and bring honor to Filipino soldiers who sacrificed their lives to fight for such freedom.

"We have a rich and fascinating history on the Filipino's struggle for freedom and independence," Casanova stated, adding that "such struggle has left historical artifacts that remind us how our forefathers fought for the freedom we now have. Some of these artifacts, such as the Fort Bonifacio Tunnel, are beneath the ground we walk on everyday."

The conversion of the Fort Bonifacio tunnel into a heritage site is foremost seen to promote appreciation of Fort Bonifacio's history – from the time of the American colonial period to the time of the implementation of the Bases Conversion Program, which gave rise to world-class communities like the Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

Cassanova likewise pointed out that the conversion of the tunnel into a heritage site will contribute to the country's tourism, which Cassanova said, plays a significant part in stimulating economic growth.

"Along BGC's world-class development, BCDA plans to rehabilitate, develop and convert the old tunnel into a historical site in BGC that will showcase the city's rich and unique heritage as a former military baseland," said the  BCDA president.

The war tunnel which most Filipinos are not aware of... this has been a tunnel that served the Philippine military since the time of the Commonwealth and up to the World War II so that the city, the Bonifacio Global City, would have a sense of history and culture and heritage and also honor our soldiers," he added.

History of the Philippine World War 2 Tunnel

First dug up in 1936, a year after the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth, the Fort Bonifacio war tunnel was envisioned to serve as Mac Arthur's headquarters and as a stockroom for war supplies.

When World War II broke out on 1941, Mac Arthur however did not use the tunnel as planned. And with the surrender of Filipino and American troops following the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, Japanese forces took over the tunnel, which was expanded with an additional exit outside of Fort Bonifacio (then Fort William McKinley) all the way to Villamor Airbase (formerly Nichols Airbase).

To further develop the tunnel, the Japanese employed forced labor among Formosans, Taiwanese, and Filipinos.

With the liberation campaign in 1945 and the end of World War II, American troops used flame throwers to flush put Japanese troops who hid in the tunnel.

A briefing paper given by the BCDA to defense reporters said that even a year after the war, Japanese troops were still said to be coming out of the tunnel and that some of them were gunned down by Filipino soldiers who were strategically positioned at the exits of the tunnel.

In the mid-70s, Maj. Gen. Fortunato Abat, then the Army chief, initiated upgrading of the tunnel by having it cemented. This was done by the Army's 51st Engineering Brigade. It was also during that time that the Task Force Greater Manila undertook diggings in the tunnel in search for "hidden treasures."

In the 80s, the historical significance of the tunnel as part of the Philippine Army museum and library complex was recognized. Rehabilitation and face-lifting was done on the tunnel, which was formally opened to the public for viewing in 1989.

With the advent of the Bases Conversion Development Plan, the Army moved to preserve and retain the PA museum complex to include the tunnel.

However, with the issuance of Administrative Order 269 "Confirming the Adoption of the Fort Bonifacio Master Development Plan" by then President Fidel V. Ramos, historical structures and sites in Fort Bonifacio were demolished despite representations made by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the National Historical Institute (NHI).

Manila Bulletin

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