Seares: Where Malacañang sa Sugbo is most likely to go: not Customs

TWO agencies are competing for the use of Malacañang sa Sugbo in Cebu City: Bureau of Customs (BOC) and National Museum of the Philippines (NMP).

Aduana, the building’s name, was built in 1910 at Cebu’s port area, owned by Department of Finance (DOF) and used as BOC offices in Cebu since it was completed.

In 2004, then president Gloria Arroyo converted it into a Malacañang of the south where she held office during her Cebu visits. Presidents after GMA didn’t want to use Malacañang sa Sugbo: Noynoy Aquino from 2010 and Rodrigo Duterte from 2016. Noynoy must have felt it was associated too much with GMA whom he prosecuted and jailed. Duterte has his own Malacañang of the south in Davao.

Aduana was condemned as unsafe for use after an earthquake with 7.2 magnitude struck Cebu and Bohol on Oct. 15, 2013. For 19 years hence, Aduana has not been used as President’s workplace in the south or for its original purpose as bureaucrats’ offices.

BOC initiative

In April this year, the local BOC asked a consultant to prepare a study for its renovation as customs officials in Manila negotiated for its return and sought funds for making the building usable again.

Apparently wires crossed and the Office of the President and the DOF, under which BOC operates, weren’t talking to each other. That, or the top decision makers changed their minds.

Signed and sealed?

Last Saturday (July 13, 2019), Michael Dino, presidential assistant for the Visayas, announced he received the “verbal approval” from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to “transform the Malacañang sa Sugbo into a local tourist attraction.”

Jojo Eleazar Bersales, head curator of the University of San Carlos Museum, in his CDN Digital column Monday (July 15), said Duterte “with the stroke of a pen last July 1 finally gave the National Museum a permanent home in Cebu, thanks to the new NM Board chair Luli Arroyo-Bernas...”

The two sources seem to clash on whether it’s already a done deal and the National Museum’s “marching order:” Dino says he got the verbal approval; Bersales says the order was signed July 1 yet. Dino says the museum will make it a “tourist attraction;” Bersales says it will be the National Museum’s “home” in Cebu.

Not irreconcilable, though. The sum-up: the President prefers the National Museum to the BOC in using Aduana.

The reasons

Here’s why, barring a flip-flop, it’s thumbs up for the National Museum:

n The historical event, 2021 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s arrival in the Philippines;

n Design, age and history of Aduana is more compatible with museum use than with offices for bureaucrats perpetually struggling to shed off an image of corruption;

n Cebu’s customs bureau, working since 2004 at the passenger terminal of the Cebu International Port, may be provided with a modern building designed for more efficient and less corrupt operations.

n And, surely not the least, the National Museum’s request is pushed by the new Chairperson of its board, Luli Arroyo-Bernas, daughter of the former President and former House Speaker.


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