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Legarda Renews Call for Protection of Built Heritage

May 12, 2015

As we celebrate National Heritage Month, Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, underscored the need to preserve and restore the country’s built heritage.

“Our heritage, both tangible and intangible, is constantly under threat of extinction. As we observe National Heritage Month, we are again reminded of our responsibility to protect and preserve the knowledge, traditions, practices, as well as natural and built treasures we inherited from our forefathers,” said Legarda.

The Senator highlighted the need to preserve and restore structures such as iconic churches, heritage houses, colonial buildings and historical bridges, noting that due to pressures of modernity and lack of public appreciation on their significance as the country’s historical markers, heritage structures remain in constant danger of destruction as evident in the demolition of the William Parsons-designed Army and Navy Club, Fernando Ocampo’s Admiral Hotel, and the 1937 Art Deco building Michel Apartments.

She also emphasized the duty of concerned cultural agencies to take the lead in the protection of important heritage treasures, whether natural or built, as emphasized in Republic Act 10086 (Strengthening Peoples’ Nationalism Through Philippine History Act) and Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009).

“We have lost some of our historic structures from natural catastrophes and long years of neglect. Although there are efforts to restore and rehabilitate some of these damaged structures such as the iconic churches in Cebu and Bohol, which were badly damaged by the earthquake in 2013, we hope that the government and experts from the academe and the private sector would heed the call to invest in the conservation of our cultural heritage through periodic maintenance and preventive measures, such as retrofitting of heritage structures,” said Legarda.

Legarda earlier filed Senate Resolution 984 asking the Senate to look into the continued deterioration and demolition of important heritage structures and trees with the end view of strengthening the implementation of the country’s heritage protection laws.

She said that aside from the demolition of historical buildings, further compounding this situation are the dangers faced by old and mature trees found within highly urbanized areas which may be earthballed or even cut due to ongoing construction projects.

Legarda said that the government should implement more programs that would protect these natural treasures, such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Heritage Tree Project, an effort to protect old and mature trees found within urbanized areas under the Urban Forestry Program.

“I hope our cultural agencies and local government units will work together to preserve our heritage and do whatever they can to prevent the destruction of structures with historical and cultural significance,” she said.

“Burnham Park in Baguio City is a very famous tourist spot. We should bring the park to its old glory where tourists and park goers could still enjoy the fresh air and the majestic views the famous park can offer. We must also protect declared heritage zones like a portion of Sta. Ana in Manila. There is a need to strengthen existing rules and guidelines and improve cooperation among various agencies to ensure the preservation of these heritage zones,” Legarda said.

Despite the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ (NHCP) issuance of Resolution No. 1 on 12 May 2014, which declares a portion of Sta. Ana in Manila as a heritage zone, there is a continuing threat to the preservation of the historical integrity of Sta. Ana due to uncontrolled urbanization, imperiling both its buffer and core zones.

A special provision introduced by Legarda under the 2015 National Budget prevents the use of state funds to demolish public and private heritage structures.

“The State should be the first to protect our heritage, thus, we have ensured that no public funds can be used for infrastructure projects that would result in the destruction of our historically and culturally significant structures,” said Legarda.

Under the provision, all government agencies should check first with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the NHCP, or the National Museum the cultural and historical value of structures that will be affected by infrastructure projects before proceeding with the new activity.