Spanish and American period bridges in Miag-ao, Iloilo, are under threat of being demolished due to a road-widening project along the Iloilo-Antique road by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Acting on the letter sent by concerned citizens of the town, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) wrote DPWH reminding it about the National Heritage Law, which puts structures of at least 50 years old as presumed Important Cultural Properties (ICP), and that national government agencies were required to adhere to the mandate of the local government units in preserving and conserving the national patrimony.
“In consideration of the foregoing reasons and pursuant to the responsibility of the DPWH to take into account the impact of major infrastructure projects—inclusive of planning, design, construction, and maintenance of national roads and bridges—on heritage structures or aspects of heritage conservation, this Commission urgently requests for coordination with the DPWH in order to determine the most appropriate conservation method applicable to both bridges,” reads part of the letter signed by NCCA acting executive director Marichu Tellano.
The two structures under threat are the arched Spanish-era stone Britanico Bridge in Barangay Bulho and the American-period Tumagboc (also Miag-ao) Bridge spanning Tumagboc River between Igtuba and Poblacion. The latter was built in 1937 by Mayor Jose Orbe with funds from the pork barrel of Rep. Jose Zulueta.
Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon inaugurated the steel-supported Tumagboc Bridge the same year.
Resident and heritage advocate Bernardo Montealto Jr. told the Inquirer the bridges were cultural, historical, and “sentimental” landmarks of the town famous for the Unesco World Heritage Site listed Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva and the Ilonggo loom-weaving tradition called “hablon.”
“In spite of the existence of a law that preserves structures considered as local heritage, many ponder why the DPWH does not appreciate the value and importance of the bridges,” he said.
Inquirer asked DPWH to comment. The department said the NCCA letter was forwarded to Undersecretary Rafael Yabut.—CONTRIBUTED