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Preserve old sugar mill, property developer urged

/ 12:09 AM March 15, 2016
SAVE SUGAR MILL   Pampanga Sugar Development Co. has begun a joint venture with Megaworld to develop a mix-use project on its land in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga province, prompting calls to preserve portions of the almost 100-year-old mill for heritage.           TONETTE T. OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

SAVE SUGAR MILL Pampanga Sugar Development Co. has begun a joint venture with Megaworld to develop a mix-use project on its land in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga province, prompting calls to preserve portions of the almost 100-year-old mill for heritage. TONETTE T. OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Heritage advocates have appealed to Andrew Tan’s Megaworld Corp. to preserve the remaining structures in the almost century-old mill of Pampanga Sugar Development Co. (Pasudeco), noting that its smokestacks are part of the symbols in the official seal of the provincial government.

Ivan Henares, president of Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) based in this city, has recommended that the structures be incorporated in Megaworld’s plan on Pasudeco’s more than 30-hectare property in Barangay Santo Niño here.

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“I am alarmed by the rate at which the main structure is being dismantled,” Henares said in the letter to Harold Geronimo, Megaworld director for strategic marketing and communities.

Michael Escaler, Pasudeco president and chief executive officer, said Tan “wanted to preserve the legacy and history of Pasudeco.”

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“That’s actually their attraction. They plan to call the whole development ‘The Centrale,’” Escaler said, adding that the firm wanted to preserve the chimneys and other parts of the mill.

He said the preservation of the heritage of Pasudeco was “part of the negotiation,” and Tan intended to draw attention to “a proud history.”

In a disclosure to the stock exchange in 2015, Megaworld said it was investing P30 billion to develop the Pasudeco land beside the Pampanga capitol.

An Inquirer visit to the site showed that the metal roofing and sidings of the mill were being torn down. The bricks of a large metal furnace have been removed. One of the three chimneys is being repainted minus the iconic letters “PSD.”

The biggest smokestack, the upper part of which fell last year, is untouched. Another one lost its top stack.

Pasudeco, the first local sugar mill financed by Filipinos and built by Honolulu Iron Works, began operations on March 10, 1920. It ran on and off after 1995 when

Mt. Pinatubo unleashed lahar that rampaged through the nearby town of Bacolor and spread toward western San Fernando City.

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Henares, the city’s former tourism officer, said Pasudeco “stands as a testament to the resilience of Kapampangan as a people and their continuous drive toward progress and development.”

“An inherent part of the heritage district of the City of San Fernando, this storied structure, a fine example of industrial heritage, is ripe for adaptive reuse and conservation,” he said. “This proposition yearns for an architect or urban planner with the vision, imagination and genius to incorporate this historical structure into the 21st century community that will be built around it.”

Megaworld, according to him, would be a beacon for conservation if the structure is incorporated into the development.

“Megaworld will be losing a crowd-drawer if it gets rid of the sugar central. Conserving the sugar central will be a sound business decision for Megaworld,” he said.

HCS and local governments are proposing sugar centrals in the Philippines for nomination to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List. These include sugar centrals in Bais City in Negros Oriental province; Victorias City, Silay City and Sagay City in Negros Occidental province; and the City of San Fernando in Pampanga province.

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