MANILA, Philippines—“We’re not out to get your property,” said Trixie Angeles, legal counsel of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), in a public forum at Finale Art File gallery, Makati City, on May 21.
The forum was held to discuss Republic Act 10066, known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.
The forum gathered an NCCA representatives and art-gallery owners, art collectors and enthusiasts, such as Finale owner Vita Sarenas and writer Ramon Villegas.
The law, the implementing guidelines of which have yet to be drawn, states that it aims to “protect, preserve, conserve and promote the nation’s cultural heritage, establish and strengthen cultural institutions, and protect cultural workers and ensure their professional development and well-being.”
It contains provisions which have alarmed art and cultural-heritage enthusiasts. Angeles said she wanted to serve as mediator to “clear up the air” and clarify details of the heritage law.
Beneficial and vague points
Villegas, who created the powerpoint presentation used during the forum, highlighted details of the heritage act, taking note of its beneficial and vague points.
“Good aspects” of the law include Article 9 (Cultural Property Incentives Program), which provides a “donor tax exemption on all donations in any form to the Commission (NCCA) and its affiliated cultural agencies, and the same shall be considered as allowable deduction from the gross income in the computation of the income tax of the donor, in accordance with the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended (Section 35).
Another positive aspect is the law’s provision for a National Heritage Resource Assistance Program (Section 36).
Most of the questions centered on Article 3, Section 5: “For purposes of protecting a cultural property against exportation, modification or demolition, the following works shall be considered Important Cultural Property, unless declared otherwise by the pertinent cultural agency.”
Cultural property would include works such as “those by Manlilikha ng Bayan and National Artists, unless declared otherwise by NCCA; archeological and traditional ethnographic materials; unless declared otherwise by the National Museum; those by national heroes; marked structures and structures dating at least 50 years old; unless declared otherwise by National Historical Commission; and archival material/documents at least 50 years old, unless declared otherwise by National Archives.”
Very broad provision
Critics say the provision is very broad and classifies just about everything as cultural property. They say the provision is tantamount to state expropriation of cultural works, many of them in private hands.
Angeles said the provision’s reach might be delimited by the implementing rules and regulations.
Included in the act is the restriction of the dealings of the cultural property as stated in Article 3, Section 11. “No cultural property shall be sold, resold, or taken out of the country without first securing a clearance from the cultural agency concerned. In case the property shall be taken out of the country, it shall solely be for the purpose of scientific scrutiny or exhibit.”
Lending credence to the critics’ contention that the law violates private-property rights, the law classifies a “collector” as “any person who, or institution that, acquires cultural property for purposes other than sale.
When Villegas raised the possibility of a “collector” wanting to resell his art, Angeles said the “collector” would still have to get a license.
Esperanza Gatbonton, former heritage-sites consultant of NCCA and member of the technical group working on the new law’s IRR, said that the implementation of the law aimed to protect the country’s cultural treasures.
“We need the objects that will allow us to see the development of the nation,” she said.
To view a complete copy of the R.A. 10066, visit the Heritage Conservation Society website: http://www.heritage.org.ph/.