YAMASHITA TREASURE HUNTS RUIN CLARK, TARLAC
Clark Field, Pampanga, July 16, 2001 - Thereís a frantic race between a historical society and a growing number of treasure hunters equipped with supposed Japanese maps and even bulldozers to cover some 100 caves, reportedly linked by tunnels, in the hills northwest and northeast of this special economic zone.
The Bamban Historical Society (BHS), an affiliate of the National Museum, wants the caves preserved for their historical and tourism value, while treasure hunters continue pillaging the caves for the fabled Yamashita treasure.
Edgar Hilbero, an official of the National Museumís cultural properties division and the BHS, expressed alarm yesterday over the growing number of treasure hunters ransacking the caves amid efforts of his group to identify, restore and preserve the caves which are reportedly linked by "the most extensive tunnels" in the southwest Pacific.
"The treasure hunters are wasting time, money and effort. There are no gold treasures in the caves," Hilbero told The STAR.
Some of the caves have reportedly become dangerous to explore after treasure hunters made diggings inside them, carting away World War II memorabilia in the absence of any Yamashita gold.
Hilbero insisted that no Yamashita treasure can ever be found in the caves. He said historical records from the Japanese War History Office in Tokyo showed that Japanese forces dug up the caves toward the end of World War II as defense posts against the American liberators.
The records, he added, indicated that while Yamashita, then the overall commanding general of the Japanese 14th Area Army in the Philippines, indeed designated the hills northwest and northeast of Clark as defense area for the retreating Kembo group of the Japanese Imperial Forces, the caves stored only hospital and military supplies.
Local historian Dan Dizon said Filipinos were virtually made into slaves by the Japanese in digging up the caves which, he added, were linked by tunnels.
Most of the equipment kept in the caves were from Clark which the Japanese military also occupied during the war.
The local newsweekly Pampanga News quoted the Japanese War History Office as saying that "anti-aircraft guns ranging from 20 mm. from Clark Field and nearby airfields were moved to new positions in the mountains and in the tunnels for protective terrestrial fire."
"In some cases, the heavy artillery equipment were broken into components and carried up the hills and placed in the tunnels as part of the protective installations of the Kembo group," the records stated.
The records, the newsweekly said, described the hills as "the most extensive system of tunnel defenses built at that time in the southwest Pacific theater of operations."
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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