By Hannah Torregoza
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked his colleagues in the Senate to look into the issues surrounding the construction of the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge.
Drilon, citing warnings aired by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said its construction may cause the delisting of four centuries-old churches from the World Heritage Site.
In filing Senate Resolution No. 944 on Monday, Drilon urged the Senate committee on education, arts and culture, chaired by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the possible delisting of the “Baroque Churches of the Philippines” from the prestigious World Heritage Site.
These include the Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin in Manila; the Church of La Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; the Church of Saint Augustine in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; and the Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo.
The UNESCO reportedly warned that the construction of the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge may encroach on the buffer zone prescribed for the San Agustin Church.
The proposed bridge will pass over the Pasig River and connect San Fernando Street in Binondo to Solana Street and Riverside Drive in Intramuros.
In 1993, these four edifices, collectively inscribed as the “Baroque Churches of the Philippines”, were declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Drilon pointed out.
“The inclusion of these four churches in the prestigious World Heritage Site in 1993 drew praises and recognition all over the world,” Drilon said.
“These renowned churches are always in the bucket list of both local and foreign travelers, thereby, helping our tourism industry while also serving as reminders of our past,” he added.
Drilon said it is imperative that the government learn to strike a balance between urban development and heritage conservation.
“We must balance our pursuit of economic success with our concern for our cultural heritage. The two can co-exist,” said Drilon, citing his experiences in restoring many heritage sites in Iloilo.
Drilon, who hails from Iloilo, is widely credited for the preservation of iconic architecture and historical landmarks in Iloilo.
The minority chief reminded that Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley was delisted from UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2009 due to the building of a four-lane bridge in the heart of the cultural landscape.
Drilon said that under Republic Act No. 10066 and its implementing rules and regulations, Word Heritage sites are subject to the highest standards of conservation and management in order to ensure the safeguarding and sustainability of its “Outstanding Universal Value” over time.
Drilon said the Senate must look into the issue with the end-in-view of crafting remedial legislation for the proper conservation and preservation of our National Cultural Treasures and World Heritage Sites.