By Zyra Ponce
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has urged the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) or Pag-IBIG Fund to suspend all activities that may adversely affect the physical integrity of the former Filipinas Life Assurance (FLA) building located along the highway of Concepcion Grande in Naga City, which the latter plans to demolish to give way for the construction of a six-storey building that will house the agency’s Naga City branch office.
Oscar G. Casaysay, NCCA executive director, on March 2 this year issued the request to Secretary Eduardo D. Del Rosario of the Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development (DHSUD) and chairman of the HDMF, through Acmad Rizaldy Moti, HDMF chief operating officer, and Theody Jean D. Amador, head, Naga Housing Business Center.
Casaysay informed Del Rosario that the building is “a work of National Artist Leandro Locsin that was constructed in 1970. He said it is “considered an Important Cultural Property (ICP) under Section 5 of Republic Act (RA) 10066, otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, and Section 48 of the same act prohibits demolition, modification, or alteration of presumed ICPs, thus, any public or private entities must seek clearance first from this Commission for any development or activities which may affect any cultural property.”
In addition, Casaysay said that since the building is “more than 50 years old, Section 5(g) of the same law also grants it protection because of the presumption that it may have historical significance which allows the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to exercise jurisdiction over the same.”
According to Del Rosario, HMDF or Pag-IBIG Fund has the right to file a petition for the removal of the presumption of ICP subject to the guidelines of the NCCA Board Resolution No. 2021-313.
To recall, Bicol Mail in its Feb. 24, 2022 issue published on its front page a photo of the FLA building with a caption that it is scheduled for demolition to give way to the new Pag-IBIG building.
Upon learning the news, Alec Santos, chief of the Arts, Culture and Tourism Office (ACTO) of Naga City wrote on Feb. 28 this year the NCCA informing and requesting the latter to act on the matter.
In its succeeding issue on March 3, 2022, Bicol Mail headlined on its front page ACTO’s opposition to the planned demotion of the building based on the grounds cited above by NCCA.
Based on its research, Bicol Mail found out that in 2019 the planned demolition of a similar FLA building in Iloilo City, also designed and built by Locsin, did not materialize because of the strong opposition of the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council.
In a related news, Rappler on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 published an article stating that the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) has filed a petition with the NCCA to remove the 15-storey Ramon Cojuangco Building located at the corner of Dela Rosa Street and Makati Avenue, as an ICP.
The building, also designed by Locsin, serves as the headquarters of PLDT.
In its petition for the removal of ICP status, PLDT said the building “does not demonstrate exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance. Thus it cannot be regarded as an ICP.”
PLDT said the building does not represent Locsin’s iconic works, and that it is “generic, nondescript, and purged of any reference to local culture, tradition, climate, or identity of the place.”
ICP is defined by RA 10066 as “a cultural property having exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance to the Philippines as shall be determined by the National Museum and/or National Historical Institute,” PLDT said.