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NCCA: Only Rizal can ‘own’ Luneta landscape

By: - Writer / Editorial Production Assistant / @Inq_Lifestyle
/ 03:45 AM August 30, 2014

Sen Pia Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, together with Carlos Celdran,  inspects the sightline of the Rizal monument. Rising behind the monument is the Torre De Manila condominium with 19 floors completed.  JOAN BONDOC

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) joined the critics of a local government-approved condominium project near Rizal Park in Manila, and agreed that the structure would spoil the view of the monument of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.

In a statement signed by NCCA chair Felipe de Leon Jr., the agency “expressed concern on the construction of a multistory condominium that affects the sightlines of the revered Rizal Monument.”

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The statement, dated Aug. 27 and e-mailed to media offices on Friday, was referring to Torre De Manila, a DMCI project along Taft Avenue and near Rizal Park (also known as Luneta), which would be 49 stories tall once finished.

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“As the primary agency tasked with creating and implementing policy on culture and the arts, the commission adheres to the highest standards of conservation and protection of sites and structures. This is based on the principle that heritage sites such as the Rizal Monument are of such national significance that the commission also holds its visual context on the same level of importance,” it said.

“In other words, Rizal as our hero deserves no less than a hero’s monument and sole ownership of the landscape in which he is buried and honored,” it stressed.

“To this end, the commission laments the interference and visual distractions of the condominium tower, a commercial structure that seems to mar our reverence for Jose Rizal and violates the historic setting that gives a fitting dimension to his place in our nation’s history.”

The NCCA called on lawmakers to “consult with our experts and enact appropriate laws to protect the visual landscapes and other such vistas that form an integral part of our heritage.”

Despite an online campaign launched by cultural activist Carlos Celdran against Torre, the project was approved by the Manila city building official in 2012 under then Mayor Alfredo Lim. It was later questioned in the city council, under the current administration of Mayor Joseph Estrada, but was eventually given the approval to proceed with the construction.

Revived interest

Public attention to the project was revived on Wednesday when Sen. Pia Cayetano conducted an inquiry, during which DMCI lawyer Roel Pacio admitted that the project “exceeded” the floor-to-area ratio set by the Manila Zoning Ordinance for the site but was nevertheless granted a permit by the city building official.

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Reached for comment on Friday regarding the NCCA statement, Pacio and DMCI Holdings Inc. president Isidro Consunji both cited a Nov. 6, 2012, letter from another government agency—the National Historical Commission of the Philippines—which maintained that the project did not violate any law pertaining to the Rizal Monument.

“That is other people’s opinion,” Consunji said in an interview, referring to the NCCA’s position. “We have all the permits to build it.”

“As far as we know, we have all the permits and licenses to develop,” he added in a separate interview.

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TAGS: Jose Rizal Monument, Manila, Metro, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, NCCA, Rizal Park, Torre de Manila
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