Townsfolk rejoice freeze of plan to destroy town plaza
SAN JOSE, Batangas—Residents here were rejoicing after officials decided to freeze plans to build a new municipal building at the center of this town’s heritage plaza.
Gracia Ona, former chair of the San Jose historical committee, said she was “very happy to learn about the decision” to spare the old plaza.
“The Municipal Development Council (MDC) is shelving the plan to put up a new municipal building for now,” said Municipal Administrator Constantino Briones in an interview on Monday.
The MDC plan to build a P60-million building in front of the old municipal hall to accommodate more offices for the growing local bureaucracy had generated opposition, especially from longtime residents keen on preserving the town’s heritage.
Briones, brother of Mayor Entiquio Briones, said MDC’s decision was made public on Dec. 15.
He said the council arrived at the decision because the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) had maintained its position against MDC’s plan.
In a letter to Mayor Briones on Sept. 18, Maria Serena Diokno, NHCP chair, had urged town officials to keep the 1,000-square meter plaza as an open, free space.
It was NHCP’s second letter to town officials on the same issue after a first one dated July 5.
Diokno said San Jose’s open air plaza dated back to the 16th century, when “royal ordinances” stipulated that center plazas should be accessible and no other structures should be built around it, “except when (the structure) contributes to … beauty.”
The town plaza is surrounded by the Shrine of St. Joseph the Patriarch, which was built in 1788, a school and the municipal hall.
“Your proposed municipal building will shatter the beauty of the plaza and deny the residents and citizens of San Jose a right they and future generations ought to enjoy,” Diokno said.
Vice Mayor Jose Nereus Agbing said MDC arrived “at a consensus” not to pursue the plan to put up a new municipal building in the 16th century old plaza.
Constantino said, however, that the new municipal building was still included in the annual investment plan of the town for the next 10 years.
He said a “third party” had expressed willingness to donate a lot in a nearby village for the proposed new building.
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