Lucena mayor orders PNR to stop restoration of 77-year-old station
LUCENA CITY—Mayor Roderick Alcala has ordered the Philippine National Railways (PNR) to stop the “restoration” of its 77-year-old iconic stone-walled station, considered one of remaining heritage structures in this capital of Quezon province, for lack of city permits.
“As much as possible, they should restore the destroyed parts of the building to its original form,” Alcala said in an interview on Thursday.
The first PNR station in the city was built from wood materials in 1913. It was rebuilt in 1938 when the first Bicol-bound train was put into operation and made into concrete with stone walls.
Last week, the mayor met with Edwin Balong-Angey, the new manager of the PNR division based in Lucena, and told him to secure the required permits from the City Engineer’s Office and to submit its project plans to the Sangguniang Panlungsod for approval.
He said the city government wanted to seriously study the extent of the restoration project before any construction is resumed.
A billboard put up in front of the train facility stated that the PNR project, titled “Restoration of Station Building,” was funded with P15.3 million and was being undertaken by Batangas-based Granby Trading and Construction. Started on June 25, the project is expected to be completed on Oct. 25.
PNR has own charter
In an interview before he met with Alcala, Balong-Angey said the PNR would obey the local government’s directive as a matter of protocol. He, however, maintained that the PNR has its own charter which exempts it from local requirements.
He said the PNR had told the project contractors to secure clearances from the local government as stated in the contract between them and the agency.
Ronnie Tolentino, head of the City Engineer’s Office, said that even if the project proponent is a national government agency, it is still required to apply for permits. “But it is exempted from paying any fees,” he said.
Tolentino said the construction activities stopped on Wednesday.
Two days earlier, Councilor Sunshine Abcede-Llaga delivered a privilege speech requesting Alcala to stop the project.
In a letter sent to Alcala on Sept. 7, Vice Mayor Philip Castillo and 11 councilors noted that under Republic Act No. 10066, or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, structures which are at least 50 years old are considered “important cultural property.”
“Such a historical landmark should not be torn down and that all works and measures of conservation shall be undertaken only upon prior approval of the commission (National Commission for Culture and Arts) and that it shall strictly adhere to the accepted international standards of conservation,” the letter said.
Maria Lilibeth Benosa, who hails from Lucena and is an active member of Advocates for Heritage Preservation (AHP), called Alcala’s decision to stop the project as “great news.” AHP is a national organization committed for the protection and preservation of the country’s cultural legacy.
“This is a welcome development for the people of Lucena and heritage advocates but we must continue to remain vigilant,” said Benosa, who is now based in Manila.
She lamented the damage already inflicted to the antique building. “They should have preserved it,” she said.
In a short letter she posted to her Facebook account and addressed to the PNR, Benosa said that “While we see your good intention to put back the railways system to life in this part of Quezon and Bicol, let it be your crusade to keep this heritage structure intact.”
She said: “It is a part of the PNR history, as it is ours, too. Please stop the demolition, restore the Lucena PNR Station. Please help preserve our urban identity.”
Former Councilor Athel de la Cruz-Martin, a member of Quezon Province Heritage Council Inc., urged the local government to stop the destruction of the city’s remaining heritage structures.
“What we should all do is to conduct an inventory of the remaining heritage structures and adopt projects and programs for their protection and rehabilitation,” Martin said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.