A church worker walks past rubble of the 18th century St. Catherine of Alexandria after its bell tower was destroyed following a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the town of Porac, Pampanga.
Historical Commission to ask for calamity funds to restore quake-damaged churches
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 25, 2019 - 6:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) will ask Malacañang to use calamity funds to restore centuries-old churches in Pampanga that were damaged by the magnitude 6.1 earthquake. 

NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante noted that the previous administration allotted P1 billion for cultural heritage. He said half of the amount was given to NHCP while the other half went to the National Museum. 

"We are still waiting for words from Malacañang if they will appropriate calamity fund for all these cultural heritage that were partly damaged by the earthquake," Escalante said in a press briefing in Malacañang. 

"The worse scenario is (if) there (is) no calamity fund, then we have no choice but to submit this to DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for possible inclusion in the General Appropriation Act for fiscal year 2020," he added. 

Escalante said a detailed engineering study would be conducted to determine the extent of the damage sustained by the churches. He said he has so far visited five heritage churches in the towns of Lubao, Guagua, Betis, Angeles and Minalin affected by the quake.

"We still have to wait for the final DES, the detailed engineering study and the possible intervention. At this point, I think it is still premature to float any amount," he said. 

"These are cultural properties that I think it is the duty of the state to preserve and then restore. I consider (this as) something that’s really very urgent and we really appreciate if the administration will appropriate certain amount for this. 

Escalante, however, said archdioceses cannot rely solely on government funding for the restoration efforts. 

"We also told the Archbishop that if ever you have funds na intended for the restoration and then for the activation of these church, they must also participate. We cannot rely completely on government funds, because in the first place, these are their property," he said. 

Escalante said the restoration of the church in Lubao may require about P10 million, noting that the quake damaged the belfry, the cross and some tiles. He described the damage in the churches in Guagua and Betis as "minimal."

With regard to the Holy Rosary Church in Angeles, Escalante said the structure suffered "big" damage but experts have not determined whether the cracks were just superficial. 

"We only visited five churches but I am pretty sure that there might be other churches that they want to be included," the NHCP chief said. 

While experts are assessing the extent of damage caused by the earthquake, the immediate concern of government and church officials is the safety of the parishioners. 

"What we are really recommending is the safety of the people. So if the structure is not safe, if there are signs of cracks, then better to vacate the church for the time being until such time that the ground settles," Escalante said.  

Earlier, the Archdiocese of San Fernando closed 24 heritage churches in Pampanga to allow engineers to inspect their structural integrity. 

The churches that are being inspected are the Holy Rosary Parish in Angeles City, Nuestra Señora de Gracia Parish in Mabalacat and San Bartolome Apostol Parish in Magalang, San Agustin church in Lubao, Sta. Lucia church in Sasmuan, Immaculada Concepcion in Guagua, Santiago Apostol or Betis Church in Guagua, San Jose Labrador in Floridablanca, Sta. Catalina de Alexandria in Porac, Sta. Rita de Cascia in Sta. Rita, Metropolitan Cathedral City in San Fernando, Sta. Catalina Alexandria in Arayat, San Guillermo in Bacolor, Sta. Monica in Mexico, Sta. Ana Parish in Sta. Ana, San Vicente Ferrer in Calulut, San Fernando, San Pedro Apostol in Apalit, San Andres in Candaba, San Nicolas de Tolentino in Macabebe, San Miguel Arkanghel in Masantol, Sta. Monica in Minalin, San Luis Gonzaga in San Luis, Nuestra Señora del Pilar in San Simon and Sto. Tomas Apostol in Sto. Tomas. 

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