Cultural agencies to restore damaged heritage structures

A team of experts that will be formed and will visit the sites starting October 17, with mobilization fund from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts

HERITAGE IN DANGER. The bell tower of the Church of San Pedro Apostol in Loboc, Bohol is in ruins. Photo by Robert Michael Poole

MANILA, Philippines – Three cultural agencies will be leading efforts to rescue and rehabilitate the many heritage structures damaged by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that shook Bohol, Cebu, and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao on Tuesday, October 15.

In a statement, the board of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) outlined the plan to assess the damage sustained by the structures and how to move forward in restoring them, in coordination with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Museum (NM).

“We express our commitment to rescue and, later, rehabilitate, damaged heritage structures, many of them churches that have been part of the life of the people for centuries, in collaboration with the Catholic Church, local government officials and communities,” said the NCCA Board of Commissioners in a statement released after a meeting convened to address the disaster.

At least 10 iconic churches in Cebu and Bohol suffered severe damage from the earthquake and its aftershocks. In Bohol, at least 22 churches are damaged, Bohol board member Cesar Tomas Lopez told the government-run People’s Television. 

Many of the destroyed structures are declared National Cultural Treasures, National Historical Landmarks, and Important Cultural Properties, which are protected under the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. This law mandates government to prioritize National Cultural Treasures and National Historical Landmarks during natural disasters.

The NCCA, NHCP, and NM will be taking the following steps:

  • Form Heritage Task Force, a team of experts, and send it starting Thursday, October 17, to inspect, evaluate, and establish the severity of damage. The team will identify properties that immediately need to be secured, decide on priorities for restoration, estimate the amount of human and financial resources necessary, and establish important linkages with stakeholders.
  • Have Heritage Task Force coordinate with the Catholic Church and national and local government units in the restoration efforts.
  • Provide, through NCCA, a mobilization fund for the initial assessment, while waiting for a decision from the national government on rescue and rehabilitation efforts “as a whole.” 
  • Convene and discuss the findings of Heritage Task Force and submit an official report to the Office of the President.

Wake-up call

Heritage Conservation Society said the destruction of several iconic colonial-period churches should serve as a wake-up call to government agencies and civil society.

“We hope that this incident sends a strong message to the national government to invest in our cultural heritage by allotting significant funding for periodic maintenance and preventive measures, such as retrofitting of our built heritage,” the group said in a statement. 

But they also urged the private sector to be part of the effort.

“We also ask that heritage professionals and experts from both the public and private sector be convened to plan the proper reconstruction and restoration of our damaged cultural properties.” – Rappler.com

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