Chairperson Virgilio Almario of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has issued a cease-and-desist order on the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to stop the demolition of the Philbanking Building on the Simon de Anda circle on Bonifacio Drive, Port Area, Manila.
According to Almario’s directive, Philbanking was designed by Natonal Artist for Architecture José Maria Zaragoza, one of the great masters of the 20th century Philippine architecture,” and is a presumed important cultural property (ICP) under the 2009 National Heritage Law.
He also reiterated the NCCA recommendation to PPA that the structure be retrofitted and adaptively reused.
Almario reminded PPA general manager Jay Santiago of its promise to “seriously consider” the conservation of the building in its letter to the NCCA dated Dec. 16, 2016.
Heritage advocates had condemned the PPA, Manila City Hall under Mayor Joseph Estrada, and Department of Public Works and Highways for the demolition.
The edifice, which later became the Bureau of Internal Revenue Building, is owned by the PPA.
According to Republic Act 10066, the National Heritage Act of 2009, Philbanking is a presumed ICP since it was designed by a National Artist and is at least 50 years old.
International Council on Monuments and Sites Philippines president Dominic Galicia said Philbanking “is a tragic loss. ”
Former tourism secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta deplored the demolition.
She said it was “depressing” coming in the heels of the demolition of the Philippine National Bank Building on Escolta, which was designed by Carlos Arguelles.
“Many of our local government officials have no respect for heritage and history, neither do real estate developers,” she said.
“There are laws protecting our heritage but they destroy and demolish with impunity,” Araneta added.
A notice posted in front of the building states that PPA entered into a contract in October 2017 with EM Cuerpo Inc./Multi-system Construction and Development Corporation JV for the demolition.
PPA South Port manager Francisquiel Mancile said the demolition was carried out due to the notices of condemnation issued by the office of the Manila Building Official.
He said that in 2016, the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) had asked the demolition “abate(d).”
Mancile said that in March 2017, DPWH “strongly recommended” the demolition.
He added Manila City Hall ordered the demolition in April 2017.
But Charles Salazar of the NCCA heritage office said the matter was never cleared with them.
NCCA did not give the go-signal to the demolition, Salazar said.–CONTRIBUTED