City Hall Ground Work Meant to Enhance Not Destroy City Hall’s Historical Value — Mayor

City Hall Ground Work Meant to Enhance Not Destroy City Hall’s Historical Value — Mayor

April 18, 2015

BAGUIO CITY – The on-going construction at the City Hall grounds is not intended to destroy but enhance the edifice’s historical value by beautifying the façade and securing the premises, Mayor Mauricio Domogan assured last week.

He said the project which includes the relocation of the flagpole and the fencing of the perimeter of the City Hall grounds will not also mean making it off-limits to the public but will serve to protect the premises which have been burglarized in the past.

“We have no intention of depriving our constituents and visitors to have an access to city hall, but it is for the protection, safety and security reasons that the project is being pursued. Also, we are beautifying the city hall park and garden and stage to be used by performers in any kinds of events to be conducted at the city hall grounds,” he said further assuring that no trees will be cut unless the DENR permits it.

The mayor said the project which was conceptualized and approved way back in 2008 under the term of former mayor Reinaldo Bautisa Jr. and his administration adopted it considering its merits.

Aside from the flagpole and fence, the project will also cover the construction of walkway concrete paving, plant boxes and benches, stage and museum.

When the project commenced last March, members of the Baguio Heritage Foundation raised objections stressing the need to have it first approved by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) considering the area’s being declared as a national historical site.

Arch. Johnny Degay, officer-in-charge of the City Buildings and Architecture Office told the city council last Monday that based on the list of historic sites and structures installed with historical markers from the NHCP, only the City Hall building and not the grounds that was declared as such on September 2, 2009.
However, Dr. Ronaldo Paraan of the Baguio Heritage Foundation said the grounds were included based on the definition provided under Republic Act 10066 or An Act Providing for the Protection and Conservation of the National Cultural Heritage, Strengthening the NCCA and its affiliated cultural agencies, and other purposes.
He pointed out Section 3(f) of Republic Act 10066 which states that “built heritage (like Baguio City Hall) shall refer to architectural and engineering structures such as, but not limited to, bridges, government buildings, houses of ancestry, traditional dwellings, quarters, train stations, lighthouses, small ports, educational, technological and industrial complexes, and their settings, landscapes with notable historical and cultural significance. Thus, the improvement of city hall grounds and the garden/park is part of the historical site.”

Paraan clarified that they are not opposing the design of the project but the process with which the city government is undertaking it without heed from the NHCP. He said the city government cannot alter the building without approval from the NHCP.

Members of the city council however lamented the lack of an exact document, save for the marker, on the declaration of City Hall as such as attested to by Councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Peter Fianza who conducted a research for such document even during his term as city administrator when the repainting work was done on the edifice in 2007.

Tabanda said that if indeed the site includes the landscape, the document would be necessary to determine the exact metes and bounds of the City Hall reservation that should be treated as historical site and therefore needs to be protected. She noted that part of the City Hall reservation has been encroached upon.

The mayor also took exception from the allegations of critic Peter Puzon who accused the mayor of receiving a kickback from the project.

“I have nothing to hide. My conscience is clear and it’s not in my character to do what they are accusing me of doing,” the mayor said clarifying that he is not a member of the city’s bids and awards committee but as the mayor, he was obligated to approved the BAC’s projects.

Puzon also told the council that an environmental compliance certificate is required of the project considering its historical status as confirmed to him by the DENR and the NHCP.

Bishop Carlito Cenzon expressed hurt over the officials’ seeming obstinacy saying they need to look at the value of history.

Councilor Richard Carino said they were not being stubborn but were faced with a dilemma since they are bound by a legal contract and have no power to stop the project.

Tabanda said they do not dispute City Hall’s status as a historical site but they should also know the extent of the area covered.

“These are question of delineating and following procedures but we also ask for closer coordination with the city on these matters,” she said.

After the dialogue, the body decided to request the NHCP and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCC) to furnish the city council with a list of historical and heritage sites in the city with their corresponding resolutions and to invite their representatives along with the DENR officials to their session on April 27 to shed light on the issues.

The body will also ask the city general services office, the city planning and development office, city assessor and the DENR to provide a technical description of the City Hall reservation to determine its metes and bounds.

The matter was also referred to the city mayor and the council committee on historical research for study and recommendation./Aileen Refuerzo and Jho Arranz


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