Protests persist vs turning Rizal Memorial into mall
Heritage conservation advocates trooped to the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) in Manila on Saturday to protest plans to turn the 82-year-old structure into a shopping mall.
About 30 yellow-shirted members of Dakilang Pamana ng Lahi and Advocates for Heritage Preservation gathered along Pablo Ocampo Street in Malate holding up streamers denouncing City Hall’s plan to “sell” the complex to the group of business tycoon Enrique Razon.
The Razon group, in a Dec. 6, 2016 statement defending the “redevelopment” of the complex and answering an online campaign against the project, explained that it would not only preserve but also fortify RMSC’s facade.
It noted that the complex had not undergone any structural improvements, rendering it virtually unsuitable and unsafe for training athletes and holding local or international games. The city has not been generating income from the “derelict” structure, which now only serves as a “sad reminder of the Philippines’ former glory days in sports,” it added.
But Lino Atienza, Pamanlahi secretary general, insisted: “Not another mall, please.”
“We are here because we are objecting to the demolition of the entire [structure],” said Atienza, who noted that his group had worked to save other heritage sites across the country. He cited one site in Sariaya, Quezon province, which he said his group was able preserve after they made some noise about it.
“If we don’t side with history, what will our children learn?” he told reporters.
A relative of former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, he said politics had nothing to do to with their campaign.
According to Atienza, his group doesn’t know “how far the negotiations” between the Razon group and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada have gone but they decided to push through with the protest after a letter they sent to City Hall one month ago received no response.
“There was no attempt to communicate with us,” he said.
The structure could be retrofitted if there are concerns about its safety, he stressed, and the city government could come up with other means to “make money without sacrificing heritage sites, ” like Rizal Memorial, a venue of historic events not just involving sports.
He cited the game played by baseball legend George Herman “Babe” Ruth, a Beatles concert, and a speech delivered by then President Manuel L. Quezon.
Flyers that Pamanlahi handed out to pedestrians and motorists informed them that Rizal Memorial was designed by renowned architect Juan M. Arellano, who was also behind “outstanding buildings” like Manila Metropolitan Theatre, Manila Central Post Office, and the Legislative Building (now housing the National Museum).
RMSC was also the site of the 1954 Asian Games, the 1981, 1991 and 2005 Southeast Asian Games, the 2012 and 2014 Philippine Peace Cup and the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals in 2012 and 2014.
Atienza also noted that the RMSC area had been serving as a “lung of the city” with its tree-covered areas, and that its open spaces could be useful when major calamities or other emergencies strike Manila as an evacuation center or a helipad./rga
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