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)


  1. Jehaycee Carlos21.5.12

    sana pakinggan nya ang tugon. It will be a heartbreak to our cultural heritage to see people who do not value history for the sake of economic progress.

    1. Anonymous26.5.12

      All Filipinos have colonial mentality, and I really mean everyone.

  2. Jet Javier21.5.12

    We have a City Historical Commission yet they seem to be ignorant of heritage laws. Our City Council even wanted to name public structures under living persons because that was what our Mayor wanted.

  3. Dominic Galicia21.5.12

    This must be stopped. We call on the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to issue an immediate Cease and Desist Order to stop the ongoing demolition of this colonial-era house on Elcano Street, near Lavezares Street, in Binondo.

    The Heritage Law protects this structure. The Heritage Law stipulates a minimum of ten years imprisonment for the perpetrator of this crime.

    The Manila Blitzkrieg of 2012 must end!

  4. This must be addressed! Stop the demolition of heritage structures!

  5. Fernando Zialcita22.5.12

    This is one fight we cannot afford to lose because El Hogar is irreplaceable.

    A "pseudo-facade"! What have a fake when one can have the original? Plus is there no value to that magnificent staircase and courtyard?

    At the heart of the problem is the position taken by the current administration that there should be NO limits to the height of buildings ANYWHERE IN THE CITY. I believe HCS' case will be stronger if we couple preservation with PUBLIC discussions of why height restrictions are important in particular areas of the city because of arrying capacity, etc., etc. For as long as the mentality is the sky is the limit, our crusade for preservation will be weak.

    Needless to say, the discussion should draw in economists and environmentalists who can make a stronger case about how quality of life translates into revenues.It is important to remind the public that one factor that killed Escolta in the 1970s was that the relentless push upwards had created horrible traffic jams on the street level. This Makati did not have as yet because the avenues were wider --- and there were fewer buildings then.

    An example of a pseudo-reconstruction is what happened when they build that mall at the site of Meisic in Binondo -- they covered the entry with fake adobe stones.

  6. Good going with this letter! The situation is saddening. There are indeed lots of unprotected and even abandoned places in Manila that are historical. I grew up near Quiapo and Binondo and I hate to see the day when all that will be left are slum areas and garbages in our area. I had also recently visited Fort Santiago again and learned that it's an endangered architectural site. Tsk tsk.

  7. Anonymous22.5.12

    If Manila loses more historical buildings then it's just going to be another dirty city without a soul.

  8. Anonymous25.5.12

    Why do they keep on demolishing heritage buildings, when there are many underdeveloped, vacant private lots that are still available and suitable for the same projects. Its been a debatable issue eversince and yet wer're like taking the first steps all over again.

  9. Anonymous 26.5.12 has no mentality

  10. Anonymous6.6.12

    No one in the government will be listening to this letter as far as I observed from the numerous complaints we've been doing to stop this demolitions. I say we do drastic measures now and literally "stop" them. (And to think J. Estrada will become a candidate for being the mayor of Manila is already bad and impending doom to Manila!!!).

  11. Anonymous12.7.12

    Anonymous 26.5.12
    wag mo ilahat. kaya nga may gantong letter, kasi meron pa rin kahit papa'no na may paki alam sa mga historical heritages dito sa Pilipinas. watch your word. wag stereotype sir.

  12. Who has the right or obligation to sue the violators? Does the NCCA have the power to ENFORCE the Republic Act No. 10066 or intervene? Yung mga less meaningful issues like Number Coding merong enforcer (MMDA etc), bakit yung may mas importansya wala. Dapat bigyan ng konting pangil ang NCCA kasi yung matitigas ang ulo na poloticians, tatawanan lang ang Republic Act No. 10066 natin kasi they don't get repremanded. These are clear violations, and they should be brought to the court.


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