Localized heritage protection

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Many people were witnesses to the conflicting stand of cultural protection agencies like the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) relative to the issue of the Torre de Manila. It is unfortunate that the conflicting stand of government agencies who are supposed to uphold the preservation and protection of national shrines, heritage sites and historical landmarks have reached the Supreme Court (SC) during the oral arguments on the planned put up of a 47-storey structure that tend to obstruct the view of the bust of our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal. We cannot comprehend why these agencies of government have conflicting views on the matter when in fact, their officials should be closely coordinating with each other in order to guarantee the ultimate preservation and protection of the country’s heritage sites or else such protected areas might be gone with the wink of an eye.

Similarly, such conflict in the respective positions of the said agencies in improvements on marked heritage sites in the region were also evident. In the case of the city hall ground improvement and fencing project, the NCCA outrightly issued a cease and desist order directing the city government to stop the P11.7 million project even without conducting an ocular inspection on the state of the project and its beneficial effects on efforts to preserve and protect the premises of the city hall which has been a declared heritage site since 2009. On the other hand, NHCP, whose officials personally conducted an ocular inspection and evaluation of the plans and programs of work of the project, requested the city government to stop the project but after having been clarified and its officials have seen that the stage to be constructed will not obstruct the view of the city hall, it gave the go-signal for the project to proceed and interposed no objection to the same.

In the case of the controversial put up of the 7-storey pay parking building outside the declared world heritage site of the Banaue rice terraces, NCCA officials made public pronouncements that it cannot issue a cease and desist order against the municipal government to stop the project considering that experts have yet to visit the site in order to ascertain whether or not it will affect the state of the rice terraces. The NCCA will only issue a cease and desist order if it will find pieces of evidence after the conduct of ocular inspection that it will greatly affect the state of the declared world heritage site.

Evidently, the NCCA, aside from washing its dirty linen in public, seems to have played favorites in issuing cease and desist orders in similarly situated projects in Baguio City and Banaue, Ifugao. The circumstances speak for themselves and the same are virtually undisputed, thus, there is now question on the selective judgement of NCCA officials when to issue the cease and desist order on projects affecting heritage sites. People are now in a quandary whether or not to trust the issuances of NCCA because the implementation of its rules and regulations have become evidently selective to the prejudice of public service.

WE lament the fact that the NCCA had not been fair in the issuance of cease and desist orders in relation to similarly situated projects that have great impact to declared and marked heritage sites. Is present feud with NHCP does not speak well on the harmonies working relationship of government agencies and local governments because it seems that officials in the government are the ones at odds with each other instead of closely working together and threshing out issues and concerns and subsequently ironing out ‘win-win solutions.’ We are in the age of the practice of the doctrine of consultation which must be the first wave of actions to be undertaken in settling differences. Let us not use the media to magnify our conflicts because people nowadays have become critical on trending issues and problems that need to be addressed by concerned government agencies and the local governments.

Let us not be partisan in the enforcement of our respective mandates, especially in the preservation and protection of our heritage sites. Let us not use our influence over officials and employees just to gain what the few want to the greater prejudice of the majority of the people.

We strongly support the recent pronouncement of Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan that the role of preserving and protecting heritage sites should be left with the concerned local governments instead of being lodged with the NCCA and the NHCP because even their officials could not get their acts together. The best thing to do right now is for local governments hosting heritage sites to pass appropriate ordinances detailing what should be done and what should not be done so that future local officials will be binded in strictly adhering to a local legislation that will uplift the state of our heritage sites without mentioning that both cultural agencies are actually remised in their jobs to do so.

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