fires in the Philippines

Manila Central Post Office insured for P604 million – GSIS

James Patrick Cruz

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Manila Central Post Office insured for P604 million – GSIS

DISASTER. A huge fire destroys the Manila Central Post Office in May 2023.

Benjamin Nabong/Rappler

The GSIS says it can provide a loan for the reconstruction of the decades-old building. 'We need to bring it back to its original splendor,' says GSIS President and General Manager Wick Veloso.

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Central Post Office which was gutted by fire is insured for P604 million, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) said on Tuesday, May 23.

The building is insured for P406 million while its content, including furniture and fixtures, is insured for P198 million, GSIS President and General Manager Wick Veloso said.

The insurance, however, does not cover the letters and parcels lost in the fire.  

The state pension fund said that it is willing to provide a loan for the reconstruction of the decades-old building. 

“The building has been declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum of the Philippines and its loss will have a huge impact on our rich cultural heritage.  We need to bring it back to its original splendor,” Veloso said.

GSIS expects to conduct a full-blown site inspection to determine the extent of damage sustained by the insured properties on Wednesday, May 24. 

Reconstruction fund

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Representative Ralph Recto said on Monday, May 22, that contingency and calamity funds could be used in the restoration of the building.

He said that the Philippine Postal Corporation can source the rehabilitation fund from the P13 billion contingent budget, which is the national emergency fund controlled by the Office of the President.

Recto added that there is the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council fund or calamity fund which has an available balance of P19.03 billion at the beginning of 2023.

“The fire which hit this national historical landmark is undoubtedly a certifiable disaster,” the House leader said.

Under Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, “national historical landmarks, sites or monuments” shall be entitled to “priority government funding for protection, conservation, and restoration.”

This recent fire was not the first time the structure had been put in danger – it was gravely damaged during World War II in the Battle of Manila.

It was rebuilt after the war in 1946, mainly staying true to its original design.

“But even though short of cash, the newly-born Philippine Republic made sure that it would rise from the ashes of war, because such would be proof of a new nation’s determination to rebuild,” Recto said. 

“Because they believed then, as we must do now, that to let it physically disappear, is to purge it from our people’s memory,” he added.

Recto said that the country’s business tycoons can also help in the reconstruction through donations. He cited Section 35 of RA 10066 which reads: “All donations in any form to the Commission and its affiliated cultural agencies shall be exempt from the donor’s tax and the same shall be considered as allowable deduction from the gross income in the computation of the income tax of the donor.”

“This was how Italian Roman- and Renaissance-era sites were restored — under the auspices of companies, who regarded those as prestige and patriotic projects,” he said. 

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The lawmaker said PhilPost cannot restore the historical landmark on its own as he cited the poor financial performance of the government-owned and controlled corporation in the past years. 

In 2020, PhilPost recorded a negative net plus of P240 million. The following year, it posted a positive net surplus of P106 million, which according to Recto is still not enough. 

The lawmaker also called for the immediate reconstruction of the building.

“Government should rebuild the National Post Office Building. Fast, and not in slow mail fashion,” he said.

The Manila Central Post Office fire broke out late Sunday evening, May 21, and was put out early Tuesday morning, more than 30 hours later.

The Bureau of Fire Protection estimated that the initial cost of damage is P300 million. The bureau is still investigating the exact cause of the fire.

The Manila Post Office is temporarily setting up a center at the PHLPost Surface Mail Exchange Department in the Port Area.–

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