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Senate to probe Manila condo project

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 04:42 PM August 25, 2014

File photo of Torre de Manila which, as of Aug. 20, was 22.83 percent completed, according to an update on the project developer’s website. EDWIN BACASMAS

MANILA, Philippines–The Senate will inspect the sightline of Dr. Jose Rizal’s monument in Manila which, according to heritage activists and Netizens, will be permanently spoiled by a high-rise condominium.

The on-site inquiry into the impact of Torre de Manila on the country’s national and cultural heritage will be conducted by the Senate committee on education, arts and culture on Wednesday morning.

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The 46-story condominium is being built across Rizal Park and the committee wants—in aid of legislation—to look into allegations that this is in violation of national laws and policies, according to Sen. Pia Cayetano.

An online Change.org petition and Netizens had opposed the condominium, referring to it as “Terror de Manila” and “Pambansang Photobomb,” because it would ruin the iconic sightline of the national shrine.

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Spurred by this, Cayetano filed Resolution No. 824 to inquire into the matter. She chairs the investigating committee.

The committee has invited as resource persons Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez; Ma. Serena Diokno, chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines; Felipe de Leon Jr., chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts; Elizabeth Espino, executive director of the National Parks Development Committee; and Jeremy Barnes, director of the National Museum.

Also on the guest list are Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and Isidro Consunji, chairman of project developer DMCI Homes; cultural activist Carlos Celdran, who is against the project, as well as Inday Espina-Varona of Change.org Philippines; Jeremias Singson of the Knights of Rizal; and Luis Camara Dery of the Philippine Historical Association.

Experts from the private sector, including architect and heritage conservation advocate Paulo Alcazaren, Rozzano Rosal of the United Architects of the Philippines and David Sanchez of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers, were also invited.

The committee will hold the hearing at the conference room of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in Rizal Park at 10:30 a.m. following a 10 a.m. ocular inspection of the monument’s sightline.

In her resolution, Cayetano said it was the Senate’s duty to conserve, promote and popularize the nation’s cultural and historical heritage as mandated by Article XIV, Section 15, of the Philippine Constitution.

She added that there were several laws such as the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act, National Cultural Heritage Act and the Local Government Code that mandate government agencies and local government units to protect national and cultural heritage sites and zones.

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Unveiled in 1913, the Rizal Monument was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in December. The monument marks the area where Rizal was executed in 1896 while its granite base contains most of the national hero’s remains.

In November 2013, the Manila City Council unanimously voted to suspend the building permit of DMCI Homes for Torre de Manila for alleged violation of local zoning rules and in the face of criticisms.

In January this year, the Manila Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals reconsidered the suspension after the project developer asked to be exempted from local zoning laws.

Councilor DJ Bagatsing, chair of the city council’s committee on tourism who earlier authored resolutions recommending the temporary suspension of the building permits, later explained that DMCI officials had “a roundtable discussion” with him and Celdran and agreed to improve the design of the condominium facade to complement the Rizal monument sightline.

He said that the firm had also agreed to plant two rows of tall trees “to protect the view” and keep the building free of advertising materials.

As of Wednesday last week, Torre de Manila was 19 floors high, the committee said, citing an update posted on the project developer’s website.

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