BONTOC, Mtn. Province – With the fate of the half demolished Provincial Capitol building still in limbo, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was asked to intervene for its restoration.
This development was learned after former Governor Jaime K. Gomez, in a letter, asked President Duterte to intervene for the restoration or reconstruction of the demolished capitol building including the other half but to still resemble the façade of the original building before the demolition.
In a letter to the president dated August 16, 2016, Gomez wrote “to respectfully bring to your attention a matter that has been relegated for a long time and for which your good office’s intervention is what is needed”.
It is to be noted that half of the provincial capitol was demolished sometime in 2013 under the order of the late Governor Leonard Mayaen. Since then, the building was never replaced and remains at present to be an eyesore to local residents, tourists and visitors.
The reason for the non-reconstruction of the building is the protest of some quarters in the province who claimed that what was demolished is the historical and cultural value over the historical property.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) had issued a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) on April 25, 2013 after the act of demolition was brought the attention of the agency which until now has not been lifted despite a request by the former governor.
Last week, a team from the NHCP motored to town to “inspect and assess the remaining structure for possible restoration, rehabilitation, or development”, reported in this paper last week.
The team from the NHCP, led by Architect Ma. Luisa Valerio, went around the capitol building including the demolished portion site.
Former Board Member Ezra Gomez, the complainant that caused the issuance of the CDO, reiterated his opposition to the proposed construction of a new three storey building. He maintains his position for the restoration of the demolished building with only two storey and a façade of the old structure.
While Atty. Edward Chumawar, Johnny Co, and others, represented those who are pushing for the construction of a three storey building that was halted by the CDO.
Asked about what the possible NHCP action, it was learned that the group will make recommendations that will have to be tackled by historical commission en banc.
However, a definite action will be the conduct of a stakeholders meeting in the province for the presentation of NHCP’s recommendations and to clarify issues and concerns.
The late governor intended to replace the two storey capitol building with a new three storey structure with the plan that is claimed to alter the frontage of the old building.
Mayaen had claimed that need for office spaces by the burgeoning workforce of the provincial government and the fire hazard situation posed by the old wooden and dilapidated structure as justifications for the new construction.
The original provincial capitol building was erected sometime in 1907 by the Americans and since then became the seat of power for the old undivided Mountain Province up to the present. It is considered an Important National Cultural Heritage per Sec. 5 of Republic Act 10066 which states that buildings of 50 years old and above are considered historical and cultural heritages.
Then Chairperson of the National Historical Heritage Institute, Gemma Cruz Araneta, who once visited the provincial capitol years ago appreciated the historical significance of the building as one of the few remaining remnants or vestiges of the past together with the Bontoc Central School and the Saint Vincent Elementary School structures which was built in 1911.
Exasperated with the long overdue delays of restoration and without definite action from the agency in support of the restoration, the letter was forwarded seen as a facilitating factor.
“Please help us cause the restoration of the demolished structure with the construction of the two storey building with the facade of the old integrated thereon”, Gomez wrote the President.