Rizal Shrine one of world’s threatened sites

Privilege Speech

Rizal Monument now one of world’s threatened heritage sites
by Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Chairperson, Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture
Philippine Senate Plenary Session
18 November 2014

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, last week I attended the ICOMOS 18th General Assembly. ICOMOS is the International Council on Monuments and Sites. It is an advisory organization to the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) and an international body tasked to identify and protect heritage sites around the world.

My being there was the result of an earlier trip to Europe en route to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, when I went to Paris to speak to heritage experts in UNESCO and ICOMOS headquarters. From these meetings, I learned about the upcoming ICOMOS General Assembly, and that it was a venue for discussion of heritage sites in danger.

Upon returning home, I sought out ICOMOS Philippines and urged them to elevate the issue of the desecration of the Rizal Monument before the 18th General Assembly held last week in Florence, Italy.

Aside from the many sessions on heritage preservation and best practices, which I will detail in a separate report, the highlight of the conference was the adoption of resolutions calling for the protection of various heritage sites all over the world.

At the end of the session, the Philippine’s Rizal Monument, along with Machu Picchu of Peru, El Camino de Santiago Compostela of Spain, Dampier Archipelago of Australia and a number of other sites, were considered as in danger, and in urgent need of government attention and necessitating protection.

Allow me to walk you through the back story of this heritage at risk, the desecration of the Rizal Monument by a residential building which is now known as the “Terror de Manila”.

This is the Rizal Monument that I am certain all of us here have visited and admired over the years.

The Rizal Monument itself was erected in honor of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

The land upon which the Rizal Monument is located is sanctified and hallowed. The Rizal Park has been witness to hundreds of executions committed against those whom the Spaniards labeled as rebels and mutineers, including the three priests, Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, and the Trece Martires or Thirteen Martyrs.

This is the very same Rizal Monument where foreign dignitaries through the decades have paid their respects to our national hero by laying a wreath in his honor such as President Dwight Eisenhower of the United States and the President Nelson Mandela of the Republic of South Africa.

This is the Rizal Monument today.

Pursuant to the Constitutional mandate that the State shall “conserve, promote and popularize the nation’s historical and cultural heritage and resources” and that “all the country’s artistic and historic wealth constitutes the cultural treasure of the nation and shall be under the protection of the State which may regulate its disposition,” Republic Act No. 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act was enacted precisely to institutionalize a cultural preservation strategy that will ensure the protection of our cultural treasures for present and future generations.

In The National Historical Commission of the Philippines 2011 Guidelines On Monuments Honoring National Heroes, Illustrious Filipinos And Other Personages, it states that: “Monuments are landmarks XXX [which] must be honored, preserved and protected.” Monuments should be given due prominence since they symbolize national significance.” As such, the following measures must be undertaken to achieve dominance referring to monuments:

* Keep vista points and visual corridors to monuments clear for unobstructed viewing appreciation and photographic opportunities.

* Use strong contrast between the monument and its background. This will enhance the monument as a focal point of the site.

Unfortunately, despite these provisions of law, the City of Manila gave permission to developer, David M. Consunji Incorporated (DMCI) Homes, to construct the controversial Torre de Manila condominium, a 49-storey high-rise residential building marring the sightline of the Rizal Monument and in violation of the height limits set by the Manila Zoning Ordinance.

Torre de Manila, now 29 floors high and pegged by DMCI Homes at 19.08% status of completion as of November 13, [1] adversely affects the dominance and unobstructed view of the Rizal Monument.

A series of committee hearings and oculars were conducted by your Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture on 27 August, 4 September and 25 September 2014 precisely on this issue. I will be sponsoring my Committee Report with the findings and recommendations soon. I will delve on the details of the violations, and obligations of different government agencies in my Committee Report. For now, my intention is to bring this matter to the attention of this lawmaking body.

Mr. President, one of the wrong notions about heritage preservation is that it is an obstacle to economic progress. In other words, “di yan makakain.” But this is utterly false. Economic development and heritage preservation can, and indeed, must coexist side by side.

In fact, the Hangzhou Declaration recognizes that heritage conservation is a part of a sustainable development plan and advocates placing culture at the heart of public policy. The relevant provisions state that:

“We reaffirm that culture should be considered to be a fundamental enabler of sustainability, being a source of meaning and energy, a wellspring of creativity and innovation, and a resource to address challenges and find appropriate solutions. The extraordinary power of culture to foster and enable truly sustainable development is especially evident when a people-centred and place-based approach is integrated into development programmes and peace-building initiatives.

“We also reaffirm the potential of culture as a driver for sustainable development, through the specific contributions that it can make – as knowledge capital and a sector of activity – to inclusive social, cultural and economic development, harmony, environmental sustainability, peace and security. This has been confirmed by a wealth of studies and demonstrated by numerous concrete initiatives.” [2]

Dear colleagues, one thing I’ve learned is that the protection of our heritage is a collective effort. Not one person, not one group can do this alone. I call on every one of you here to join me in giving meaning to the Constitution and the provisions of the law that we ourselves enacted.

Just in the short time your committee was hearing the Rizal monument case, we were flooded with requests to look into other heritage sites at risk -– the gouging of Admiral Hotel in Manila, the proposed demolition of the Anda Monument to ease traffic in the port area, the demolition of the Army and Navy Club, the threats to Sta. Ana Heritage Zone, the plan by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to demolish the Dampol Arc Bridge in Nueva Vizcaya, and a road-widening project of the DPWH that will demolish ancestral houses in Palo, Leyte. In fact, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Sen. Loren Legarda have joined me in this campaign to save our heritage and cultural properties by filing Senate Resolutions 979 [3] and 984. [4]

If we do not act now, if we do not set this right now, we stand to lose so much. The Rizal Shrine will forever be marred by this private structure. And not only that, we lose the opportunity to send the right message for all the other historical and cultural treasures that are threatened.

Mr. President, we must take the protection of our history, culture, and heritage more seriously, as these are the intangible ideas that connect Filipinos to one another and unite us in a national identity. It is easy in this modern age to put a premium on what we perceive on the surface as economic development or progress. However, the pursuit of such development must not relegate the preservation of our culture and history to the backseat. Thank you. #

END NOTES:
[1] http://www.dmcihomes.com

[2] http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/
CLT/images/FinalHangzhouDeclaration20130517.pdf

[3] RESOLUTION DIRECTING THE PROPER SENATE COMMITTEE TO CONDUCT AN INQUIRY, IN AID OF LEGISLATION, ON THE REPORT THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS PLANS TO DEMOLISH PARTS OF INTRAMUROS TO EASE TRAFFIC IN THE PORT AREA IN MANILA

[4] RESOLUTION DIRECTING THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION, ARTS AND CULTURE TO LOOK INTO THE CONTINUED DETERIORATION AND DESTRUCTION OF IMPORTANT HERITAGE STRUCTURES AND TREES WITH THE END VIEW OF STRENGTHENING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COUNTRY’S HERITAGE PROTECTION LAWS

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