Saturday, September 18, 2021

Seares: Tomas and Capitol’s new building

Item: NHCP or National Historical Commission of the Philippines has informed in writing the Cebu Provincial Government to change its plans for a skyscraper beside the Capitol, a heritage-declared property, to preserve “balance and symmetry.”

Item: A public hearing last May raised concerns about reclassifying the Capitol into a heritage-leisure zone, with the government-commercial complex expected to draw more vehicles to the area;

Item: An advocacy group has asked province officials to locate the proposed building elsewhere for convenience of clients from outside Cebu City and to ease the traffic problem.

Traffic as component

But what is the position of Cebu City Hall?

Mayor Tomas can block the province project as he did in 2007 Capitol’s build-transfer-operate venture called Ciudad with private company Fifth Avenue Development Corp. The cited reason: it would worsen traffic in Banilad. The new Capitol building will also house shops, restaurants and other commercial outlets. At a Capitol public hearing last May, worsening of traffic congestion was among the concerns raised.

Torre de Manila lesson

Some people compare Capitol’s Resource Center building with Torre de Manila. Quite a stretch if you match in cost and magnitude the 20-story, P1.2 billion Capitol edifice with the 49-story, P3.6 billion Torre de Manila. Still, the local issue has the potential of escalating into a smaller Torre situation.

Governor Junjun may have picked up a thing or two from the Supreme Court decision upholding the right of DMCI Homes to complete Torre de Manila. The tribunal ruled that (a) the court had no jurisdiction, (b) Knights of Rizal that sued had no legal standing and private interest to protect, and (c) there’s no law explicitly requiring a “sightline” or “visual corridor” for the benefit of heritage sites.

That ruling must have strengthened hearts of Capitol planners.

City Hall’s role

Capitol experts can dispute NHCP’s finding of “lack of balance and symmetry” and argue that the new edifice will not alter architect Juan Marcos Carreon’s 1937 concept of a “visual corridor” all the way from Fuente Osmeña until the eye, unobstructed, rests on the cupola-crowned structure.

How about NHCP’s cease-and-desist order? The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 grants the power but does not list refusal of its order punishable. The pertinent item in the list of prohibited acts under the law is about physically altering the heritage site and not disturbance of one’s view of it.

LGU backing

The said law (Republic Act #10066) requires the local government to adopt “measures to secure the integrity” of the heritage property. Which brings us back to how City Hall decision-makers view the Capitol project. Would they favor Capitol on the heritage and traffic issues?

The mayor, through City Hall agencies, can suspend the Capitol project with efficiency that historical or arts agencies cannot hope to equal.

Torre de Manila got Manila City Hall’s OK in 2012 and passed review and was told to go ahead in 2014. With City Hall backing, DMCI Homes virtually ignored the historical and cultural bodies, saying it would heed only the high court.

Would Capitol get similar support from the local City Hall in case opposition to the project would intensify and reach litigation?

Governor Junjun is not Congresswoman Gwen (Garcia), the governor when Ciudad was shut down. And Capitol this time has no private partner surnamed Dino.


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