BAGUIO CITY – The city council approved a resolution inviting officials of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NCHP) to appear before the local legislative body on 27 April 2015 to clarify issues surrounding the declaration of heritage sites and historical landmarks in the city which have significant implications to the on-going improvement of the city hall grounds among other key projects to improve the condition of the city hall premises.
The council’s action came after it also approved a similar proposal requesting both government institutions to provide the city government a list of declared heritage sites and historical landmarks that were installed appropriate markers for the information and guidance of the city in the identification and prosecution of future projects within the said sites and landmarks.
The council invited officials of the Baguio Heritage Foundation, Inc. to clarify their earlier allegations that the on-going improvements within the premises of city hall is in violation of Republic Act (RA) 10066 or the national heritage law which requires the approval of the NCCA and NHCP on all improvements within identified heritage sites and historical landmarks in the country.
However, councillors Leandro B. Yangot, Jr. and Peter Fianza raised the issue that the city hall was declared a heritage building under the old law but it was not confirmed by the concerned accrediting agency pursuant to the provisions of the new law upon the petition of the owner and the subsequent conduct of public hearings for the purpose.
It can be recalled that the city government is implementing an P11.7 million improvement of the city hall grounds and the fencing of the city hall premises which was approved by the local government way back in 2008.
Initially, the P3 million budget for the beautification of the city hall premises was included in the city’s annual investment plan in 2008 , the P10 million budget for the fencing of the city hall premises was included in the city’s 2012 annual investment plan while the P7 million budget for the improvement of the city hall premises was included in the 2013 city budget and investment plan.
The council informed officials of the foundation that they could not accede to their demand to totally stop the on-going works within the city hall grounds because there already exists a contract between the local government and the contractor and that stopping the same might open the floodgates of the filing of a series of administrative and criminal cases against the city.
Furthermore, the council provided the office of the city mayor details of their deliberations with the officials of the foundation for his guidance and further needed action while awaiting the appearance of NCCA and NHCP officials to the council to clarify issues and concerns relative thereto.
The council tasked the committee on education, culture and historical events to take the lead in the documentation of the possible heritage sites and landmarks in the city in coordination with the Baguio Heritage Foundation in order to put order to the city’s records of heritage and cultural properties for the benefit of the present and future generations of Baguio residents.
The Baguio Heritage Foundation informed the council that the group requested the NHCP to declare some 43 sites in the city as heritage sites or historical landmarks pursuant to the new law but the same was not done in consultation with the city government, thus, the occurrence of the existing confusion.
Councilor Fianza disclosed the historical marker was placed in the city hall building by officials of the National Historical Institute (NHI) sometime in February 2009 while the new national heritage law took effect only in March 2010.
He asserted the new law provides for the proper procedures to be observed in the declaration of heritage sites or historical landmarks which must be strictly observed considering that there is no formal resolution from the concerned historical agency declaring the city hall as a heritage site despite the existence of a marker stating so.
The council also invited officials of the Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CAR) to clarify previous statements that the city needs to secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for its project improving the city hall grounds and fencing its premises.
By Dexter A. See