LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines – The National Commission for Culture and Arts ordered the Department of Public Works and Highways, on Wednesday (March 18), to stop its road project in Sariaya, Quezon, that could affect several heritage structures in the locality.
Felipe de Leon, chairman of the NCCA board of commissioners, told DPWH officials “to cease and desist” from implementing the infrastructure project along Maharlika Highway in Sariaya “that will potentially affect the Natalio Enriquez heritage house, Sariaya municipal hall and town plaza, Saint Francis Assisi Parish Church complex and all other deemed/Presumed Important Cultural Properties (PICP) in the area” without the coordination of NCCA and other concerned government cultural agencies like the National Museum and National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
“Failure to comply with this mandate is a criminal offense under RA (Republic Act) 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009),” De Leon said.
Section 25, Article 7 of RA 10066 states: “When the physical integrity of the national cultural treasures or important cultural properties are found to be in danger of destruction or significant alteration from its original state, the appropriate cultural agency shall immediately issue a cease and desist order ex parte suspending all activities that will affect the cultural property.”
A copy of the NCCA order was forwarded to the Philippine Daily Inquirer by Danny de Luna, president of the Sariaya Heritage Society, one of the groups that have been opposing the DPWH road widening project.
He said the NCCA order is “a feather in the cap for every one of us in heritage advocacy and preservation.”
The cease and desist order is addressed to DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson; Romeo Momo, DPWH undersecretary for regional operation; Samson Hebra, DPWH-Region IV-A director; and Nestor Cleofas, district engineer of the DPWH-Quezon II.
According to the NCCA, the heritage house and PICP are entitled to protection against modification and demolition pursuant to Section 5 of RA 10066.
Under RA 10066, all structures at least 50 years old are considered important cultural property and are entitled to protection against any form of man-made destruction.
When contacted, Cleofas argued that no court or government agency could order a stop to a DPWH project that has been funded by its central office.
“There is a law to that,” he said over the phone. He did not specify the supposed law that has been protecting nationally funded projects.