Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Document: Letter From National Historical Commission Chair Diokno To Mayor Domogan

Maria Serena Diokno, head of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), has recently sent a letter to Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan to address issues concerning ongoing and planned developments in two heritage sites in the city - the Baguio City Hall and Burnham Park.

First of all, I would like to say that I'm not a lawyer so I don't know jack how the letter affects the proposed construction of a parking facility at the Melvin Jones Football Grounds and the ongoing fencing of the City Hall.

However, I can't help but wonder if the letter has any teeth? After reading the contents of the letter, I had the impression that the NHCP doesn't seem to have any power at all. First off, the fencing of the City Hall has already commenced. I think it's been weeks already. In the letter, Diokno is requesting a copy of the fence and ground improvement plan from Domogan. I find this baffling because the fencing and ground improvement is already underway. Why are they requesting for the blueprint only now?

It's possible that Domogan gave the project the green light without any coordination with the NHCP. Still, don't the NHCP have employees in the city who would've instructed the city and made sure that it followed the right procedures in pursuing the project? It's simply unacceptable that the project went on for weeks and NHCP doesn't even have a copy of the fencing and development plans. Two possible scenarios here. Either Domogan is so good in breaking the rules or the NHCP is too lazy to effectively watch over heritage sites that it's supposed to be protecting. Or both?

Now, let's take a look into the controversial proposal of a parking facility at the Melvin Jones Football Grounds. Diokno's letter produced two interesting items with regards to the proposal. One, the NHCP is yet to receive a copy of the plan. Diokno says her office have been waiting for seven months now. And two, Diokno seems to imply that her office has received a letter from Domogan in September 2014 in which she was made to understand that a commercial structure won't be constructed on the contested space.

As to the first item, I'm giving Domogan the benefit of the doubt. After all, the proposal is still being deliberated upon so there is still the absence of a concrete and solid plan. To send the NHCP a plan this early in the development process may have been deemed by the Mayor as premature. As to the NHCP's complaint that they've been waiting for the plan for seven months, I sort of find it ridiculous. Why wait for seven months when you can get it in a day? I'm pretty sure the NHCP have people who can visit the mayor's office and get a copy of the plan. Domogan doesn't send you a copy and you will content yourself waiting for months, is that it? What if he doesn't send you a copy in years? Will you still be sitting there waiting and hoping that it finally arrives?

As to the second item, I'm sort of baffled by it. Is it not the whole point of the parking facility to build structures that will be rented out to motorists? If I'm not mistaken, the proposal also includes the construction of commercial spaces that can be rented out as stalls. The facility won't be just a parking facility, it will also be selling siomai, donuts, or what have you. Either that or I have problems with my comprehension skills.

In other words, I'm confused and I'm not sure what to make of this all. All I get is that one side seems to be overeager in building fences while the other side flexes its muscles only when it's too late.

Anyway, here's the letter. Photo courtesy of the Baguio Heritage Foundation, Inc.
Image credit: Baguio Heritage Foundation Inc.
[Below is a transcript of the letter:]


6 May 2015

Baguio City

Dear Mayor Domogan,

There are two concerns I wish to raise with you in response to requests the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has received from various stakeholders in Baguio City.

1. Proposed fence around the Baguio City Hall

The City Hall and the areas surrounding the building such as the parking and flag pole areas are included in the building landscape and therefore form part of the City Hall. The City Hall bears an NHCP marker and is therefore a heritage and historical building.

The fencing and improvement of the City Hall grounds would be acceptable provided they do not obstruct the view and prominence of the structure and enhance the overall architectural integrity of the site.

To address our concern, may we request a copy of your fence and ground improvement plan for our review and recommendation? Meanwhile, until the Commission approves your plan, I enjoin you not to undertake any development work or changes in the area.

2. Parking area in Burnham Park

I understand the plan for a parking area is still in the conceptual stage and that no commercial structure will be constructed in the Melvin Jones Football Field (your letter to the NHCP, 3 September 2014). In reply, on 14 October 2014, asked you to submit your plan. To date, I however, have not received anything. I therefore enjoin you not to conduct any bidding whatsoever in relation to the development of Burnham Park without the NHCP's approval of your plan. I would like to have the plan as soon as possible please, we have been waiting for seven months now.

Thank you.

Yours truly,