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20 storeys to ponder on

By: Jobers R. Bersales June 06,2018 - 08:29 PM


The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has finally spoken on the proposed 20-storey Cebu Capitol building. In fact it apparently spoke a long while back, some 15 months ago, or March 2, 2017, to be exact. That is the date of the letter signed by Acting NHCP chair Rene Escalante, a copy of which I only saw this week.

To be fair, the Cebu provincial government was keenly aware of the possible issues that would arise because of the proposed building’s proximity to the old Capitol that had been declared a National Historical landmark in 2009. And so it informed the NHCP in a letter dated 10 February 2017 signed by Atty. Mark Tolentino, the chief of staff of Gov. Hilario Davide III. (Incidentally, the Cebu Capitol Building, designed by the great government architects of their time, Juan Marcos Arellano and Antonio Toledo, will mark its 80th birthday on June 14 next week. And so it is but fitting that the NHCP’s letter has emerged a week before this milestone so that things can be seen in proper perspective.)

All told, Escalante stated in very clear terms NHCP’s position regarding the project: “Based on the plans that you submitted, the new high rise building is too high that it will distort the balance and symmetry of the old capitol building. We recommend that the new development must be well arranged and symmetric on both sides of the old capitol building, thus, there is a balanced placement of buildings within the capitol complex.”

In closing, the NHCP chair wrote, “Please submit to us a new development plan based on our recommendations. Meanwhile, we enjoin you not to undertake any work or changes in the area until we approve the development plan.”

It is pretty clear that the NHCP has put its foot down on the 20-storey building and has in fact requested that new development plans be submitted to the commission for approval. Whether this has been done remains to be seen. I was told that in the public hearing held recently, the architect of the contracting firm told the audience that they would go to Manila to confer with the NHCP officials.

In a text message I sent to a high NHCP official, I inquired if such a meeting had already transpired. This official texted back that no meeting has transpired yet and that the Cebu provincial government has not submitted any new development plans.

Given this situation, I reiterate what I wrote in this space last March calling on the provincial government to consider moving this planned building at a site outside Metro Cebu and convert the old Capitol building into a haven for culture and tourism. Perhaps that’s a win-win solution.

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