Palace promises China-funded bridge will not affect heritage churches
Front view of the historic San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila as of October 2014. It is known for being one of the oldest religious buildings in the city of Manila.
Wikimedia/Patrick Roque
Palace promises China-funded bridge will not affect heritage churches
Rosette Adel ( - November 22, 2018 - 5:50pm

MANILA, Philippines—Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo on Thursday assured the public that Malacañang will not allow the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge to endanger centuries-old churches there.

Asked if it will allow the encroachment of the China-funded bridge into the buffer zone required by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for baroque churches on the World Heritage list, Panelo said the Palace will definitely not.

“It may encroach, but I was listening in the news story yesterday that the constructor was saying it will not, so we do not know exactly whether or not it will because if it will, then certainly it is right to object,” Panelo said at a Palace briefing.

“Definitely (not allow), because that is a world heritage. It is part of our history,” he added.

Panelo, however, clarified that the Palace might not object the construction of the bridge but just look into adjustments to preserve the baroque churches. He said he does not see the building of the bridge as a problem.

“Not necessarily not push through because you may move the location to maybe a 100 meters away,” the presidential spokesman explained.

Probe the bridge construction

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed Senate Resolution No. 944 calling on a Senate panel to conduct a probe into the issues surrounding the construction of the controversial Binondo-Intramuros bridge. He cited that that the construction of the bridge may result in the delisting of four baroque churches from among the World Heritage Sites.

READ: Drilon eyes Senate probe of Binondo-Intramuros Bridge

Drilon said this was based on the reported warning of the UNESCO. The international organization has reportedly warned that the construction of the bridge may encroach on the buffer zone prescribed for the Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin Church. 

“Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate, to direct the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the reported possible delisting of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines from the UNESCO World Heritage List preservation of our National Cultural Treasures and World Heritage Sites,” Drilon said.

The three other baroque churches named are the Church of La Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; the Church of Saint Augustine in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; and the Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo.

These four edifices, collectively inscribed as the “Baroque Churches of the Philippines”, were declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

Drilon cited that “the inclusion of these four churches in the prestigious World Heritage Site in 1993 drew praises and recognition all over the world.”

“These renowned churches are always in the bucket list of both local and foreign travelers, thereby helping our tourism industry while also serving as reminders of our past,” the senator said.

Drilon said the government should strike a balance between urban development and heritage conservation.

“We must balance our pursuit of economic success with our concern for our cultural heritage.  The two can co-exist,” Drilon said.

Drilon cited that in 2009, Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley was delisted from UNESCO’s World Heritage List after the country built a four-lane bridge in the heart of the cultural landscape.

This prompted him to urge his colleagues to craft remedial legislation for the the proper conservation and preservation of our National Cultural Treasures and World Heritage Sites

Drilon said that under Republic Act No. 10066’s implementing rules and regulations, world eritage sites are subject to the highest standards of conservation and management in order to ensure the safeguarding and sustainability of its “Outstanding Universal Value” over time.

According to Drilon, the proposed 734-meter bridge worth P4.2 billion will pass over the Pasig River and connect San Fernando Street in one of the world’s Oldest China town, Binondo to Solana Street and Riverside Drive in walled-street of Intramuros.

READ: DPWH inks P5.27-B bridge contract with China firms

The construction of the bridge broke ground in July and is eyed to be completed in 2020. It is part of the multibillion-peso infrastructure grant of China.

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