Senate to probe ‘Torre’ controversy

News Release
25 August 2014

Senate inquiry on ‘Torre de Manila’ to push through on Aug.27

The Philippine Senate is scheduled to probe another controversial building – this time a high-rise condominium that heritage activists and netizens warn will forever destroy the view of the historic monument of our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, at Luneta Park in Manila.

On Wednesday (August 27), the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture chaired by Sen. Pia S. Cayetano will lead a joint on-site inquiry, in aid of legislation, on whether national laws and policies were violated in the construction of Torre de Manila, a 46-story condominium which is being built right across Rizal Park.

The inquiry was prompted by Senate Resolution 824, which was introduced by Cayetano.

An online change.org petition and several netizens opposed to the condominium had referred to the latter as ‘Terror de Manila’ and ‘Pambansang Photobomb,’ referring how the high-rise structure would ruin the iconic sight line of the national shrine.

In her resolution, the senator stressed that part of the duty of the State is to conserve, promote and popularize the nation’s cultural and historical heritage, as mandated by Article XIV, Section 15 of the Philippine Constitution.

She also cited several laws mandating national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to protect national and cultural heritage sites and zones, including Republic Act No.4846 (Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act), RA No.10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act) and RA No.7160 (Local Government Code).

It should be noted that on November 23 last year, the Manila City Council unanimously voted to suspend the building permit of developer DMCI Homes for Torre de Manila, reportedly for violating local zoning rules and in response to the opposition of concerned citizens and heritage conservationists.

On January 24, however, the Manila Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals (MBZAA) reconsidered the suspension after DMCI Homes appealed for an exemption to local zoning laws.

Torre de Manila is already 19 floors high as of August 20, according to the tower’s construction update on the DMCI Homes website.

Among those invited to the hearing are national government officials, including secretaries Manuel Roxas III (DILG), Rogelio Singson (DPWH), and Ramon Jimenez (DOT), as well as Ma. Serena Diokno (Chair, National Historical Commission of the Philippines), Felipe de Leon Jr. (Chair, National Commission for Culture and the Arts), Elizabeth Espino (Executive Director, National Parks Development Committee), and Jeremy Barns (Director, National Museum).

Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and Isidro Consunji, Chairperson of DMCI Homes, were also invited, as well as cultural activist Carlos Celdran, Inday Espina-Varona of Change.org Philippines, Jeremias Singson of the Knights of Rizal, and Luis Camara Dery of the Philippine Historical Association.

Experts from the private sector were also invited, including architect and heritage conservation advocate Paulo Alcazaren, Rozzano Rosal (President, United Architects of the Philippines) and David Sanchez (President, Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers).

The onsite inquiry will be held at the conference room of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines building in Rizal Park at 10:30 am. This will be preceded by an ocular inspection of the sight line of the Rizal Monument at 10:00 am at ‘Kilometer Zero.’

First unveiled in 1913, the Rizal Monument was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in December last year. The monument marks the area where Rizal was executed in 1896, while its granite base contains most of the national hero’s remains. #

Photo of the Rizal monument and Torre de Manila rising behind it (Taken: Aug. 20, 2014)

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