9-hour fire ravages Iloilo City's Heritage Zone, destroying iconic buildings

ILOILO. Two buildings were gutted by fire in Iloilo City, causing extensive damage to historic buildings on Iznart and JB Basa Streets.
ILOILO. Two buildings were gutted by fire in Iloilo City, causing extensive damage to historic buildings on Iznart and JB Basa Streets. (More Power)

A FIRE broke out in Iloilo City's Calle Real district early Saturday morning, March 17, 2024, burning for nine hours and causing extensive destruction.

A fire erupted on a Friday night in Barangay Magsaysay, City Proper. The flames rapidly engulfed two historic buildings located on Iznart and JM Basa Streets, resulting in their destruction.

The fire erupted at 11:16 p.m. on Friday in a commercial area in Barangay Magsaysay, City Proper, Iloilo City, the Iloilo City Operations Center said.

Firefighters battled the flames for over nine hours, with the fire being declared under control at 5:42 a.m. and finally extinguished by 8:25 a.m.

The fire rekindled several times because old wood was present in the building.

The two historic buildings destroyed were the Divinagracia Building on Iznart Street and the Celo Ledesma (Dominican Sister Building) on JM Basa Street.

Both structures date back to the 1920s, holding significant historical value to the city.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas is coordinating with the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) regarding a recent fire incident.

"I have been in touch witn the BFP and the CDRRMO. I am instructing the Office of the Building Official (OBO) to immediately work with the BFP on the possible causes of the recent fire. Furthermore, the OBO shall immediately conduct inspections on the electrical connections of all heritage buildings in the downtown area. These are the jewels of Iloilo City which are part of our heritage," Treñas said in a statement.

The mayor, upon receiving initial reports estimating the damage at P8,085,000, expressed his intention to seek aid from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

"I will be asking the help of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on what we can do to help preserve these heritage structures," Treñas said.

The affected streets, Iznart and JM Basa Streets, are situated in Iloilo City's Calle Real, a designated heritage zone.

In April 2000, the Iloilo City government established the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council (ICCHCC) through Ordinance No. 00-054, also known as the Local Cultural Heritage Conservation Ordinance.

The focus of this conservation initiative is the Central Business District, encompassing the streets of JM Basa, Aldeguer, Mapa, Guanco, and Iznart.

On the other hand, the NHCP announced the declaration of two new heritage zones through Board Resolution Nos. 01 and 03 in May and June 2014.

One of the zones includes a section of the Iloilo City Central Business District recognized for its collection of well-maintained buildings showcasing various architectural styles.

The National Cultural Heritage Act, also known as Republic Act No. 10066, is a law in the Philippines aimed at preserving the country's cultural heritage. It established the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (Precup) and mandated the protection of historic buildings that are at least 50 years old.

On May 15, 2013, Republic Act No. 10555 designated several historical sites in the City of Iloilo, Philippines, as a Cultural Heritage Tourism Zone.

The Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, Iloilo City Central Business District, including the Iznart and JM Basa Streets, Fort San Pedro, Jaro Plaza Complex, Molo Plaza Complex, and Plaza Libertad Complex are recognized as heritage and tourist destinations.

The Department of Tourism is tasked with prioritizing the development of these sites to promote cultural tourism in the area. Benigno S. Aquino III, the late former President of the Philippines, signed into law RA 10555.


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