Baguio gov’t, conservation activists form council
BAGUIO CITY—The city government has offered to form a conservation council to draw up a standard for improving buildings, parks and other structures in the summer capital which have high historical significance.
The proposal addressed a series of protests waged by the Baguio Heritage Foundation (BHF) to stop projects it believed would destroy the historical features of the Baguio City Hall and the more than 100-year-old Burnham Park.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan said some groups had been wielding the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 10066) as a “weapon to compel the city government to abide by their idea of conservation.”
“But this must be a collective decision. Every Baguio resident must agree [as to] what we consider important enough to save for future generations, and how to improve these sites without disturbing [their historical identities],” Domogan told the Inquirer.
This city, chartered in 1909, is a major historical site, being the only mountain city built by the American colonial government at the start of the 20th century.
Domogan said at least 30 important facilities and areas in Baguio have been identified by local conservation groups as historically important but many are under the administration of national government agencies.
The Department of Education, for instance, oversees Teachers’ Camp, another structure that was renovated and upgraded before its centennial celebration in 2008, records showed.
“That means every agency must be part of this council so we all follow the same guidelines for developing, without harming, these historical facilities,” Domogan said.
City hall fencing
Representatives of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) visited the city this week to secure plans for a fencing project at the City Hall. The project was conceptualized in 2008 but was implemented only this year after the completion of the bid and award process.
The BHF had complained to the city council about the project, saying the fence construction, as well as that of an extended stage in front of City Hall, disturbed the original design of the government building.
In a letter early this month, NHCP Chair Maria Serena Diokno said the City Hall grounds were protected by her agency and urged Domogan to stop the project until her office had reviewed the government’s
Diokno said she did not object to the fencing provided the proposed structures would not obstruct the view and prominence of City Hall. She sent an architect to secure the plans on Monday.
On the same day, NCCA representative Edison Molanida appeared in the city council’s session to explain the authority of his agency and to plead for a suspension of the project until the NHCP completes its review of the plans.
Councilor Peter Fianza, a former city administrator, also offered to legislate the creation of a cultural council that would assemble experts and agencies controlling or operating potentially historic structures to develop a common manual for managing heritage facilities.
Without a common guideline, the NHCP may end up obstructing other projects inside the City Hall compound, among them an Integrated Bar of the Philippines building that will rise beside the Baguio Justice Hall to accommodate poor litigants, said Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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