The Department of Culture inches forward 

By: Jobers Reynes Bersales - Columnist/CDN Digital | March 05,2020 - 09:21 AM

Now on second reading, according to my sources, is a bill to finally create a Department of Culture, raising culture as a significant concern in governance and giving a cabinet seat to this oft-forgotten but vital component of society.

Currently, the work for protecting, preserving, and promoting Philippine culture in all its myriad elements, rests with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), a small government agency under the Office of the President and headquartered at the Intramuros, with no regional or local branches. 

The NCCA (not NCAA, by the way) is composed largely of non-government officers elected to serve three years in 19 national committees that in turn constitute a National Executive Council. (I was elected to head one of them, the National Committee on Museums, by the way.) All 19 heads in turn constitute a National Advisory Board. 

Department of Culture

As proposed the planned Department of Culture (DOC) will abolish the NCCA but the National Advisory Board or the National Executive Council will be reorganized into a National Culture and Arts Advisory Council and all the existing regional committees (like the Central Visayas Association of Museums where I belong) will form the Regional Culture and Arts Committees. These will constitute the private sector participation in the DOC that so many feared would disappear once the DOC comes to life.

Under the DOC will be four national institutes, each in charge with the most important aspects of culture: National Institute of Cultural Heritage Conservation; National Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries; National Institute of Living Traditions; and, National Institute of Language and Translation.

Six bureaus

Six bureaus will be formed under the DOC, each to take charge of cultural communities and traditional arts and development; cultural properties protection and regulation; cultural properties preservation; artistic resources development; cultural research, education and dissemination; and, cultural and creative industries.

Under the DOC, the Film Development Council of the Philippines and the National Book Development Board will be affiliated to the DOC, as will be the existing five national agencies currently under the office of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte (the Cultural Center of the Philippines; the National Museum; the National Historical Commission of the Philippines; the National Library; and the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino).

I believe one of the most important and groundbreaking work of the DOC will be the establishment of regional offices in the manner of existing ones in other national line agencies, which is sorely missing in the NCCA today. I hope that with such regional offices, local government units will in turn appoint their own provincial, municipal or city arts and culture officer, which today is often attached with the tourism office. 

End in view

One might think that the DOC will just be an added bureaucracy in the country. That is furthest from the truth. It is clear from my presentation above that many of the agencies that will be under the DOC are already existing in the NCCA, except that these are on a voluntary basis, a product of election by regional committees. 

The end in view for me is that a DOC will finally allow graduates of anthropology, architecture, fine arts, history, sociology will finally find a place with which they can practice their profession at the national, regional and local government levels and not work in other unrelated jobs as is happening to many of them right now.

I have trained in archaeology quite a number of students in anthropology and history over the past decade or more. A few of them end up in teaching positions in private and state universities but the majority of them go into call centers or end up taking a second course because the first one they had would not suffice for the job they want to apply for. 

Professionally-trained people

In the DOC, there is finally the opportunity to get professionally-trained people to handle arts and culture with the same passion that they had when they were students — unless of course politicians dip their hands and recommend utterly unqualified people. But I believe there is enough in the DOC bill that requires exact qualifications for specific jobs intended to protect, preserve, and promote our own culture.

Let us therefore support the bill and pray that it will pass into law after so many attempts in the past.

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TAGS: and Arts, commission, culture, department, national, NCCA, on Culutre

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