Monday, May 21, 2012

Letter to Mayor Alfredo S. Lim on Manila's continuous violations of Heritage Law

529 Elcano Street (Photo by Ivan Man Dy)

18 May 2012

Hon. Alfredo S. Lim
City of Manila

Dear Mayor Lim:

A meaningful National Heritage Month to you and the City of Manila!

It has come to our attention that heritage houses in Binondo (three shop houses in one house at 529 Elcano Street; and another at the corner of Jaboneros and Camba Streets) are being demolished. Aside from being built during the Spanish colonial period and surviving the Second World War, the details of the said houses may be architecturally significant. This adds to the long list of demolitions in the City of Manila just in the first half of the year, most significant of which are the Meralco Building and Laperal Apartments, and the news of the planned demolition of the GSIS Headquarters right next to Manila City Hall.

We would like to remind your good office of Republic Act No. 10066 - National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. Section 5 states that modification or demolition of properties at least 50 years and older need the consent of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). That means that this year, buildings built in 1962 or earlier are protected by the law and that the NCCA needs to evaluate its significance first before a permit is granted, if ever it is granted.

Obviously, buildings built during the Spanish and American colonial periods are covered by this law. And it is bewildering how your local building official has been issuing these permits for prewar heritage without the written approval of the NCCA. As we all know, "Ignorance of the law excuses no one." Or as the good mayor puts it, “The law applies to all, otherwise, none at all!” In Manila's case, looks like it's none at all.

There is a process that must be followed before a demolition permit is granted. This process is in place to help protect the last remaining significant heritage structures in our nation's capital.

Section 48 of the law provides that whoever intentionally destroys, demolishes, mutilates or damages a heritage building (that includes buildings 50 years or older) or modifies, alters, or destroys the original features of or undertakes construction or real state development in any site protected by the NHCP, shall be, upon conviction, "subject to a fine of not less than P200,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not less than ten (10) years, or both upon the discretion of the Court." It provides further that "if the violation is committed by a juridical person, the president, manager, representative, director, agent or employee of said juridical person responsible for the act shall also be liable for the penalties provided."

It further states, "Heads of departments, commissions, bureaus, agencies or offices, officers and/or agents found to have intentionally failed to perform their required duty as prescribed by the deputization order under Section 28 of this Act shall be liable for nonfeasance and shall be penalized in accordance with applicable laws."

Here is a link to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA10066 to guide you in its implementation:

We hope that the demolition of these houses are halted immediately before any more damage is done to them.

Thank you very much!


Ivan Anthony S. Henares
Vice President
Heritage Conservation Society

Save the El Hogar Building!
Early last week, a meeting took place at the NHCP, or National Historical Commission of the Philippines, to listen to a presentation for proposed plans for El Hogar. The scheme involves demolishing the building and replacing it with a high rise, sporting street-level arches "reminiscent of El Hogar." The panel convened by NHCP rejected the proposal. (Archt. Dom Galicia)
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