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Senate to NCCA: Hire good lawyers to help defend cultural structures

September 15, 2015

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) on Tuesday was told it must find good lawyers to help protect the country’s cultural structures.

“I think you should beef up your legal department… because there’s so much destruction to our cultural, national heritage,” Senator Loren Legarda told NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon at the Senate subcommittee hearing for cultural agencies’ budgets.

“All of these destroyers and terminators are wealthy people, important people in high places with the best legal teams. They’ll demolish our heritage [sites] before we know it,” she added.

“We need good defense, legal defense people—a good legal department in NCCA—[in order] to help other agencies,” Legarda continued.

In reply, De Leon said the agency is “in dire need for more people” as a whole, with only 56 plantilla positions there.

The government’s cultural agencies, such as the NCCA and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), have recently stopped “redevelopment” and demolition works on several structures in Manila, among them the Admiral Hotel, Manila Army and Navy Club, and the El Hogar Filipino.

The NHCP and the NCCA also found itself in hot water over the controversial Torre de Manila, which was even brought before the Supreme Court.

The NCCA issued a cease and desist order on Torre de Manila’s construction in January, after repeated calls for the NHCP to stop DMCI Homes from completing the 47-storey condominium building seen in the background of the Rizal Monument.

The SC asked the NCCA to explain the move, then months later issued a temporary restraining order on the construction upon the petition of the Order of the Knights of Rizal.

This led to oral arguments on the matter that began in July.

During these arguments, the NHCP said that it did not issue a cease and desist order on the construction because there was no threat to the physical integrity of Rizal Park.

It added that due to absence of legislation protecting the visual corridor of historical sites, local governments must make their own ordinance on the matter.

The case is still awaiting resolution.

Cultural mapping

Legarda also said all government institutions and local government units must have cultural mapping in order to identify “tangible and intangible” treasures.

“What is sorely, grossly lacking in the Heritage Act is a mandatory cultural mapping. How can you protect something you don’t know exists?” she said at Tuesday’s hearing.

She added: “If these maps existed then every agency of government would know what needs to be protected.”

Legarda mentioned that some mayors have been doing this, with funding from their IRA, but added that not all can be expected to do the same.

Source: Gmanetwork