NHCP: Army Navy Club developer tampered with historic building
MANILA, Philippines – The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has issued a cease and desist order against the developer of the historic Army Navy Club for tampering with its main building without the agency's permission.
The order, issued last September 5, suspends other activities of developer Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp in the property until the NHCP approves the development plan.
Oceanville, with the blessing of the agency, plans to turn the old building into a boutique hotel slated to open in 2016.
The document shown by NHCP to reporters stated that Oceanville failed to wait for commission's go signal before dismantling corroded metal window frames and other original parts of the main building.
NHCP only gave permission for the dismantling of two annex buildings which are not part of the early 20th century original structure.
They also allowed the developer to clear debris and rubble inside the main building for their consultant to conduct an engineering study.
Oceanville had previously explained to NHCP that they had to dismantle parts of the main building because they posed hazards to workers conducting the study.
But NHCP chief architect Wilkie Delumen said they should have still coordinated with the cultural agency to ensure the proper handling of the building components.
"Old structures like this have original components which should still be preserved. Because not all of them are unsound are unusable. And even if they can no longer be used, there are ways to preserve them and integrate them into the new development," he said.
The decision of what can and should be preserved should have been made by NHCP, not by the developer, he said.
Palafox Associates, the architectural firm hired by Oceanville, presented their development plan on September 11.
Delumen texted Rappler after the presentation that the plan had not yet been finalized because of the need for "refinement in some architectural details."
But he said NHCP has instructed the developer to install temporary supports for the walls and other remaining components.
An ocular inspection on Thursday by Senator Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, revealed how the developer seemingly gutted the main structure.
Many tiles, likely 80 to 100 years old, were cracked or pulverized. The building looked as if it had been bombed, with only the shell of its walls left standing.
This is likely why, when photos of the renovation circulated on social media, many citizens thought it was a demolition.
Cayetano said it was "painful to see" the main building in its present state.
She said it's the responsibility of Oceanville to work extra hard to ensure most of the original structure stays.
"They should give the assurance to citizens to preserve as much as they can. Hopefully, they can preserve what keeps the building standing and what makes it beautiful," the senator said.
NHCP at fault?
But should NHCP have been more vigilant given that photos of the main building without window frames had been circulating on social media since August 26?
The agency only issued the cease and desist order on September 5, two days after its experts conducted their own ocular inspection.
Delumen admitted: "We cannot watch over all old structures nationwide 24/7. We only have very limited technical staff.... That's why we hope for the cooperation of the community, NGOs and local government to help us monitor."
Cayetano said she is looking into legislation that might improve the ability of agencies like the NHCP to protect heritage sites.
"We need to make sure there is enough budget for these government agencies to protect [heritage structures]. We can ask in their budget hearing, how many people do they have for daily or weekly monitoring?"
She also plans to study if there should be changes in the scope of NHCP's responsibilities in monitoring. – Rappler.com