NCCA cautions Baguio on developing historical sites

By ALDWIN QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — To avoid problems in the future, the officials of the City Government of Baguio should adopt a cautious approach in terms of employing development on government properties which are marked for their historical significance, advised a representative from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

NCCA Historical Sites Manager Edison Monalida said that development should not be rushed just for the sake of development. He said the officials should wait for the final word from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) in relation to the fencing of the Baguio City Hall grounds.

The City Hall perimeter is presently being fenced while the ground where the flagpole used to stand was excavated for the construction of a mini stage.

The fencing of the Baguio City Hall was planned as early as 2008. It was started early this year and has been the subject of protests from the members of the Baguio Historical Foundation. They argued that the City Hall is a heritage and historical landmark which, in accordance with Republic Act 10066, should not undergo improvements without the permission of the NHCP.

The group said RA 10066 prohibits the modification or alteration of historical sites that includes a designated buffer zone that extends up to five meters from the vissible perimeter of the monument site.

The group claims that the City Hall was declared a historical site by the National Historical Commission (now NHCP) and a marker was actually installed. Councilor Peter Fianza however said that while they as city officials much wanted that City Hall be declared as such, they do not remember any resolutions that the property is indeed declared officially as a historical site. He said that in the process of declaring places as heritage or historical sites, there should be consultations and resolutions made. He argued that in the case of the Baguio City Hall, only a marker was installed and there was no resolution supporting it as a historical site.

In a letter sent by NHCP chair Selena Diokno to Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan, the commissioner raised concern on the fencing of the Baguio City Hall in response to the requests of various stakeholders. Diokno affirmed that the building had an NHCP marker and is therefore a heritage and historical building.

She stated that the fencing and fencing of the Baguio City Hall grounds would be acceptable provided they do not obstruct the view and prominence of the structure and enhance the overall architectural integrity of the area. “To address our concern, may we request a copy of your fence and ground improvement plan for our review and recommendation? Meanwhile, until the Commission approves your plan, I enjoin you not to undertake any development work or changes in the area,” stated in the letter.

Domogan said that on Monday after the flag rites at Baguio City Hall, he met with a representative of the NHCP and submitted the plan of the fencing. He said he explained to the NHCP that the area being fenced is not even within the five meter designated buffer zone. He also said that as much as the members of the conservationist groups like to protect the City Hall as a historical site, the city officials also want to preserve the City Hall by fencing it to shield it from robberies and others. He stressed that the fencing activities should go on as planned.

Monalida, after a meeting with the City councilors, meanwhile said that he strongly advised the local government to wait first for the decision of the NHCP. He said that it is more difficult if the city government will be caught in a situation where a decision has been reached and the development work which is irreversible are already done. He said they are willing to talk with the contractors who are doing the fencing to explain to them why the project should be stopped for the meantime until an appropriate solution is achieved. # nordis.net

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