Dr. Jose Rizal is not alone as a potential casualty of Manila’s changing cityscape.
Amid the furor over a rising condominium project that is said to be spoiling the view of the Rizal Monument, other heritage sites in Manila are in danger of being sold or torn down, according to a former tourism secretary and current chair of the Heritage Conservation Society.
Gemma Cruz-Araneta called attention to “endangered” sites like the El Hogar and other old buildings on Escolta, the Manila Post Office, and the Manila Metropolitan Theater.
Some of the buildings on Escolta were designed by the son of renowned Filipino painter Juan Luna, Araneta told the Senate committee on education, culture and arts on Thursday.
“They’re in danger of being torn down or being sold to groups that may not respect heritage,” she said during the Senate hearing on the effect of the 48-story Torre de Manila condominium on the sight line of the monument of Dr. Jose Rizal. Araneta’s great grandmother Maria is a sister of the national hero.
She also cited as an example the Binondo house of Gen. Antonio Luna, the brilliant Filipino-American War tactician and Juan’s younger brother, which had been turned into a noodle factory and warehouse.
“The city of Manila is duly notified of your concern,” committee chair Sen. Pia Cayetano told Araneta.
The city government under Mayor Joseph Estrada earlier announced plans to revive Escolta, Manila’s high-end shopping center in the 1930s, by reusing heritage buildings as call center hubs while preserving their architectural design.
El Hogar, one of the few remaining American-colonial era landmarks in Binondo facing Pasig River, was earlier reported to be set for demolition after tenants were asked to vacate the century-old building in February this year.
The preservation of the Manila Post Office and the dilapidated Metropolitan Theater has been a concern among conservationists for years.
Araneta appeared at the Senate hearing as a resource person on the raging controversy over Torre de Manila, a DMCI condominium project which obtained permits from the previous Manila City administration, under then Mayor Alfredo Lim. Critics since 2012 have warned that the condo, now about 20 floors tall, would ruin the sight line of the Rizal Monument at Luneta Park.
Another resource person, Wilkie Delumen, chief architect of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), disclosed that a developer was planning to turn the American-era Army Navy Club on Roxas Boulevard into a hotel.
According to Delumen, Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp. had commissioned architect Felino Palafox Jr. to rehabilitate and develop the building into a hotel with a promise to “maintain the integrity of the structure.”
So far, the NHCP had given the developer permits to clean the area in order to make a “detailed engineering study” of the structure, he said. But the commission allowed the demolition of the annex building since it was already in a “bad state” and deemed hazardous, Delumen added.
Palafox and his firm had yet to present a development plan which would be subject to NHCP’s approval, he said. “Until now, there’s none. They promised to present the plan in two weeks. Before anything else, we asked them to display tarpaulins to inform the public about the ongoing activity.”
Cayetano agreed with Delumen’s view that the commission and the heritage conservation community should first be consulted on the matter.
Originally posted: 7:11 pm | Saturday, September 6th, 2014