Six days to groundbreaking capitol project no NHCP nod
Le Phyllis F. Antojado (The Freeman) - February 13, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) or other concerned agencies has not given the Cebu provincial government clearance to build the 20-story resource center beside the Capitol, a protected historical landmark.


The provincial government is set to break ground for the project on February 18, 2019, but NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante reminded the province that the inter-agency committee tasked to monitor heritage issues has not given the province clearance.

The committee is composed of NHCP, National Museum, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

“Kasi ang malinaw, ang sabi ko, at this point, wala akong alam na concerned agency na nag-issue ng clearance at parang wala ring plano ang provincial government to apply (What is clear is that at this point, no concerned agency has issued a clearance and it seems the provincial government has no plans of getting one),” Escalante said.

Escalante said he has reminded Capitol officials to “better consider the possibility of buffer zone as part of the heritage coverage” considering that the resource center will be built within the Capitol compound.

“In the case of Torre de Manila, we issued clearance because the Torre de Manila case is not inside Luneta. In fact, it is on the other side of Taft Avenue,” Escalante cited as an example.

“Normally, we consider the buffer zone as important because if ever something happens to the structure beside, and it will affect the protected structure, then we will exercise our regulatory powers,” Escalante said.

There is, however, no existing jurisprudence that tackles the “buffer zone” on historical landmarks.

“If ever the court will assume, this might be a landmark case to test the provision of the heritage law, whether the buffer zone is part of the heritage coverage,” Escalante said.

While the structure is yet to be built, Escalante said it is important for the provincial government to be aware of possible risks.

“At this point, hindi pa kami makasabi ng comment kasi walang structure na tinatayo, everything is still speculative, kaya lang ang sabi ko sa kanila, you have risks. Pwede niyo ituloy yan, and let’s see what will happen. It looks like it’s the court that will decide on this, kaya lang, sabi ko, ayaw ko na sa korte tayo mag-uusap (We can’t comment specifically because there is no structure yet and everything is speculative but I told them there are risks. You can build the structure and let’s see what will happen. It looks like the court will have to decide on this, but I said I don’t want that we talk in court),” Escalante said.

Escalante met with Capitol Administrator Mark Tolentino and legal officer Orvi Ortega last month.

No Jurisdiction

The Capitol officials argued that NHCP has no jurisdiction over the resource center since the structure will not affect the old Capitol building.

Tolentino also cited the Torre de Manila case as basis on pursuing building the structure.

“But again, based on the April 18, 2017 decision of the Torre de Manila case, which was rendered by the Supreme Court to which NHCP office was a respondent, it states that while the National Commission for Culture and Arts and other cultural agencies are empowered to protect the physical integrity of the heritage properties or buildings, it does not extend to other projects, properties or buildings which are not heritage properties or buildings,” Tolentino said.

The provincial legal officer also said that the provincial government “need not to seek the NHCP’s permission.”

The P1.3 billion resource center is the first major project under the administration of Governor Hilario Davide III.  JMO (FREEMAN)

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