‘Save Santa Mesa Fire Station’: Gov’t urged to halt demolition of century-old Manila fire station

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
�Save Santa Mesa Fire Station�: Gov�t urged to halt demolition of century-old Manila fire station
This July 23, 2023 photo shows the Santa Mesa Fire Station.
Marc Maevin Balan of Lagunenseng LAOAG / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines (2:57 p.m.; Jan. 10, 2024) — Manila heritage advocates are calling on the concerned cultural agencies and the Manila City government to take action on the impending demolition of one of the nation capital’s oldest fire stations, the Santa Mesa Fire Station.

The fire station, known as Fire Station No. 8, situated along Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard in Barangay 629 Zone 63, Santa Mesa district, is estimated to have been constructed between 1919 and 1920, making it approximately 105 years old.

In a unified memorandum dated Jan. 8, 2024 obtained by Philstar.com, non-profit organization Manileños For Heritage (M4H), said that it has been informed of the scheduled demolition of the fire station on Wednesday, January 10. The demolition will pave way for the road widening in Ramon Magsaysay Blvd.

“The BFP is planning to construct a three-storey modern building as a replacement to the old structure,” M4H wrote.

The memorandum bore the subject “Appropriate and immediate action regarding the January, 10 2024 demolition of Santa Mesa Fire Station Santa Mesa, Manila,” addressed to the following:

  • Emmanuel Calairo - Chairman, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP)
  • Victorino Manalo - Chairman, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)
  • Maria Shielah Lacuna-Pangan or Honey Lacuna - Mayor, City of Manila
  • Charlie Duñgo - Department Head, Department of Tourism, Culture, and Arts of Manila (DTCAM)
  • Engr. Armando Andres - Manila City Engineer/Office of the Building Official
  • Rolito Inocencio – Barangay Captain, Barangay 629, Zone 63, District 6
  • Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante Jr. - Representative, Sixth District of Manila, House of Representatives

Call for issuance of Cease and Desist Order

The organization is then calling on the national and local heritage agencies, as well as the local government unit of Manila and Barangay 629, Zone 63, District 6, to conduct an immediate on-site inspection and issue a Cease and Desist Order on the demolition. This is  accordance with the Section 25 of the Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

Under this provision, the law says that cultural agencies are granted power to issue CDO “when the physical integrity of the national cultural treasures or important cultural properties are found to be in danger of destruction or significant alteration from its original state.”

“The appropriate cultural agency shall immediately issue a Cease and Desist Order ex parte suspending all activities that will affect the cultural property,” the law says.

The Santa Mesa Fire Station, erected between 1919 and 1920, is deemed an important cultural asset, as outlined in Section 5 of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. This legislation safeguards structures aged at least 50 years, shielding them from exportation, modification, or demolition.

M4H also shared that the fire station is a pre-war structure and the last fire station to be established by an American chief of the Manila Fire Department.

In November 2020, National Capital Region-Bureau of Fire Protection reported that the Santa Mesa Fire Station is among the oldest stations of Manila next to the first four stations built in 1902. Two of them are the Tanduay and Intramuros fire stations.  

Due to these conditions, Fire Station No. 8 benefits from added protection via a barangay resolution (Resolution No. 001, Series of 2022, dated June 24, 2022). This resolution emphasizes the imperative documentation, safeguarding, and preservation of the station at the barangay level, as confirmed by the heritage NGO.

In view of this, the heritage advocates are also calling on the NCCA to register the fire station as “an endangered immovable cultural property, by virtue of Section 8.1 of NCCA Resolution No. 2021-296: Guidelines on the Registration of Endangered Immovable Cultural Property to the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property.”

It also urged DTCAM to coordinate with the NCCA regarding the status of the fire station in its Local Inventory of Cultural Property.

“To Manila Mayor, Manila Building Official, DTCAM: Ensure proper coordination and consultation with the Department of Tourism, Culture, and Arts of Manila in reference with the Local Inventory of Cultural Property being maintained by its office as the foremost repository of significant Manila’s heritage properties which need to be protected and preserved, so that similar unauthorized acts of destruction of local cultural property are avoided in the future,” M4H also wrote.

The NGO also warned that should these national and local agencies fail to respond to their directives, they “may qualify for non-feasance along with its penalties per Section 31 of Republic Act No. 10066, Republic Act 6713, and other applicable laws and administrative orders.”

Section 31 of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 discusses the responsibilities of Cultural Agencies for Designation of Cultural Property while RA 6713 or the "Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees,” likewise states the LGU’s responsibilities.

On Wednesday, the Manila Public Information Office told reporters through a Viber message that it is still checking if the BFP has all the necessary permits including the certification of no objection from NHCP on the project.

The NHCP, on the other hand, has yet to respond to Philstar.com’s request for comment on the heritage issue. This story will be updated upon their response.

'Another heritage victim'

Meanwhile, aside from M4H, heritage group Renacimiento Manila also raised the alarm over the impending demolition of Santa Mesa Fire Station.

“We this raise awareness once again to get another heritage structure bring demolished on our great city! We appeal to our cultural agencies such as the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, NCCA, and the City of Manila to uphold their cultural mandate in protecting these gems of our past,” the group said in a Facebook post.

“This is but one of many heritage issues facing Manila, from a planned high rise monstrosity in Arroceros, to a river obscuring expressway, Manila and the treasures of its people are under threat. And we in Renacimiento Manila will not rest easy in the face of such cultural vandalism!” it added.

Renacimiento Manila lamented how the city government celebrates the heritage treasures in the nation’s capital while also demolishing them.

It described Santa Mesa Fire Station as another “heritage victim of unimaginative and outdated car-centric planning.”

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