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NCCA cheered for anti-Torre order

MANILA, Philippines–The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) earned praise on Wednesday for issuing a “timely” cease and desist order (CDO) on the construction of Torre de Manila, whose builders might face another grilling in Congress over the high-rise condominium project which critics say would mar the view of the Rizal Monument.

Cheering the NCCA was the Knights of Rizal, a group promoting the legacy of the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, which expressed hope that “everybody concerned” would comply with the order.

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The condo developer, DMCI, has yet to comment on the NCCA order, which the cultural body released Tuesday and served at the Torre work site on Taft Avenue in Manila and at the DMCI office in Bangkal, Makati City. A publicist for the company said no statement was available at press time.

In earlier statements, the company maintained that the project had secured proper permits from the local government of Manila. The project was approved during the term of then Mayor Alfredo Lim and came under scrutiny under the present administration of Mayor Joseph Estrada, which eventually allowed it to proceed.

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“The international Order of the Knights of Rizal salutes the NCCA for standing up for the history of our country with the protection of the Rizal Park and for this manifestation of firm resolve to prevent future desecrations of other heritage sites,” the Knights said in a statement.

“May everybody concerned respect this decision by a government agency tasked to protect our culture and the law enforcement agency who will implement it,” said the group, which also has a pending petition in the Supreme Court calling for Torre’s demolition.

The NCCA issued the CDO on the ground that the project “destroys or significantly alters the landscape of the monument and the park.” Its officials maintained the move would not interfere with the case filed in the high tribunal as it was issued on the NCCA’s initiative.

On the day the order came out, the Knights updated the SC by filing a manifestation noting that 32 floors of the 49-story condo project had been built as of Dec. 19, based on the DMCI web site.

Michael Charleston Chua, a historian acting as the Knight’s spokesman on the issue, noted that the NCCA order came out two days before the visit of Pope Francis, whose itinerary includes a Mass at Rizal Park on Jan. 18.

“The Rizal Park has been part of the three previous papal visits (one by Paul VI and two by John Paul II). The Popes faced the Rizal Monument and the park with both the scenic beauty of our national mall and the phenomenon of millions of Filipinos united for their faith,” he said.

“The NCCA order is therefore timely and apt, being issued at the time of the Pope’s visit, and I hope the media commentaries and camera shots would take note of this desecration of a national symbol,” he said.

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Also on Wednesday, the House committee on Metro Manila development said it would again summon DMCI officials to a hearing to ensure they would comply with the order.

“We will not hesitate to wield police power if necessary to implement the order of the government,” said Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, the committee chair.

In December, the committee also took the officials of National Historical Commission of the Philippines to task for allegedly refusing to act on complaints against Torre.–With a report from Doris Dumlao

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TAGS: CDO, cease and desist order, Culture, Knights of Rizal, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, NCCA, Rizal Monument, Torre de Manila
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