Senator Alan Peter “Compañero” S. Cayetano on Tuesday said the fire that hit the Manila Central Post Office was “a wake-up call” on the need to protect national heritage buildings and artifacts.
“The State should make use of this unfortunate event as a learning opportunity on how buildings of cultural, artistic, and historical significance to the Philippines should be better taken care of as it is important that future tragedies of this scale be prevented,” Cayetano said in Senate Resolution No. 635 dated and filed on May 23, 2023.
The iconic post office caught fire on Sunday night, May 21, and was engulfed in flames for a total of eight hours before the fire was brought under control by the Bureau of Fire Protection on Monday morning. Damage was estimated at around P300 million.
With the fire ironically happening during the celebration of National Heritage Month, Cayetano said it is “incumbent upon the government to provide safeguards to protect our national treasures with modern equipment, surveillance, and strategies, and to ensure that the relevant agencies receive proper funding.”
He said the Philippines is “gifted by God with a rich history, great heritage, and a roster of creative artists” and that the country is home to other historically significant buildings, churches, and great works of art that “can no longer be replicated or recreated” if lost.
He said these buildings include the San Agustin Church, the National Museum, and even Malacañang itself. Most of these structures, he added, house paintings, sculpture, and other works of art of immense value.
Directing his resolution to the Senate Committee on Culture and the Arts, the independent senator sought an inquiry into the circumstances behind the fire and whether such events can be prevented by better preparation and response. He also wants the inquiry to find out if other national treasures are adequately protected.
“As we saw in the post office fire, we need to ask how equipped and prepared the Philippine government is for proper management and protection of its national heritage buildings and artifacts, especially with the minimal funds being allocated for its care and custody and the meager salaries given its custodians,” he said.