Manila Army and Navy Club developer went too far, says Sen. Pia Cayetano
By Trisha Macas
Reposted from GMA News Online
11 September 2014
A reminder from senator Pia Cayetano, “Ang nais po sana nating mangyari sana, bawat galaw ng developer ay nagpapaalam sila sa NHCP (National Historical Commission of the Philippines).”
Cayetano led an ocular inspection of the historic Manila Army and Navy Club, which is being redeveloped into a five-star boutique hotel.
However, the work was suspended after the NHCP issued a Cease and Desist Order for the redevelopment of the Manila Army and Navy Club building, after finding out that parts of the main building were being dismantled.
The government agency permitted Oceanville Hotel & Spa Corporation to only clean and clear the premises and dismantle two ancillary buildings which were not part of the original components of the Army and Navy Club.
According to the letter of NHCP chair Dr. Maria Serean I. Diokno to Oceanville dated September 5, a technical team inspected and assessed the area on September 3 and found that Oceanville worked on the original structure of the historical landmark, which was not approved by NHCP.
Cayetano said in a press statement, “I laud the NHCP for issuing a Cease and Desist Order for Oceanville to comply with its requirements. It is high time that developers heed and respect the authority of our cultural agencies.”
The senator added that only the government agency has the final say on how to proceed with national historic landmarks like the Army and Navy Club.
She also said during the ocular inspection, “Ito talaga ang puno’t dulo ng mga investigation ko, to ensure that our government agencies are exercising their power to protect our national heritage and cultural sites and that the private citizens, whether private developers or any private citizen, and the local government, are cooperating and doing their part.”
Because of the unauthorized dismantling of the original structure, many original tiles, flooring, and other parts of the building were destroyed—though they could have been preserved, Cayetano observed.
Architect Wilkie Delumen, NHCP’s Historic Preservation Division chief, explained that there are many ways of integrating old components of a building with new developments. Hence, dismantling them should be done carefully in order to preserve its original form.
Modification, alteration, or destruction of the original features of landmarks identified by NHCP without prior written consent is prohibited, according to Section 48 of Republic Act 10066 or National Heritage and Cultural Act.
Delumen also said that the developer explained that it started taking out slabs and other parts of the building for safety reasons. The structure was becoming hazardous to the those who were cleaning and clearing the premises and conducting a building engineering study, according to the recommendation of Oceanville’s structural engineer.
Moreover, the building’s main structural components such as the beams, columns, and stairs are pretty much intact, he said. The developer just removed the unusable and corroded parts of the building.
Negligence on NHCP’s part?
When asked if NHCP had been neglectful in monitoring the landmark, the senator asked if the government agencies who are tasked with overseeing the country’s cultural properties even have enough budget to do their jobs to begin with.
“Hindi naman maasahan na 24/7 nakabantay ang government agencies. But having said that, hanggang saan nila kayang magbantay at hanggang saan din sila dapat nagbantay? Those are things and questions na aalamin ko rin,” the senator also said.
Delumen added that it’s true that NHCP could not monitor old structures round the clock, periodic visits and monitoring. Lack of technical staff is one of the reasons. Plus, the agency is expected to monitor all old structures in the Philippines.
He shared that NHCP is also handling redevelopment of earthquake-damaged structures in Cebu and Bohol as well as typhoon-damaged structures in Samar and Leyte, among other projects.
“We must make sure that they have sufficient budget and hindi na sana maulit ito na sumbora sa authority ang pagbakbak, sa pananaw ko,” Cayetano told the press.
Delumen also said that hopefully the NHCP will have more technical staff to inspect and assess old structures.
He is also calling on everyone to help monitor the state of the country’s cultural properties, “Kaya hinihiling naman namin ang cooperation ng community, ng local government unit at mga NGOs na tulungan din kaming magmasid at mag-monitor.”
Oceanville Hotel & Spa Corp. and its architect Palafox Associates proposed its development plan Tuesday afternoon to NHCP for final assessment. But, Delumen said that NHCP will assess the proposal and deliberate among private practitioners and some members of the academe before coming up with a final plan. — VC, GMA News
PHOTO: Ocular inspection of the dismantled Army and Navy Club building, a national historical landmark. Leading the ocular team was Sen. Pia Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, who was joined by officials of NHCP and members of the media.