In Maasin City
TACLOBAN CITY-The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has issued a cease and desist order, suspending all activities affecting the 243-year-old watchtower within the campus of a private Catholic school in Maasin City.
“It has come to our attention that the proposed construction of buildings within the compound of Saint Joseph College will affect a Spanish-period watchtower,” said Dr. Rene Escalante, the NHCP chairman.
The letter, dated on February 27, was addressed to Bishop Precioso Cantillas of the Diocese of Maasin.
Escalante explained that since the watchtower is over 50 years old, it is considered to be an ‘important cultural property’ which is protected under Republic Act 10066 otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.
The watchtower was built in 1776 by the Augustinian priests.
NHCP also requested from the diocese development plans and site map, with respect to the said watchtower.
It also informed Bishop Cantillas on their next move after they received their requested documents.
The NHCP also furnished the same letter to Maasin City Mayor Nacional Mercado.
Mercado, who furnished Leyte Samar Daily Express a copy of the letter, said he is happy about NHCP’s action.
“Many Maasinhons are also opposing moves to demolish the said structure or plans to demolish to make way for a commercial building,” said the mayor.
Earlier, Mercado disclosed they received the diocese’s letter dated October 22, 2018, requesting permission to remove the structure to give way for the construction of the additional building to accommodate the school’s “growing population.”
While he is not in the authority to approve the plan, Mercado advised the diocese to write to NHCP.
He also asked his constituents to allow NHCP decide on the matter as it’s not within their jurisdiction.
Residents of this city have expressed their strong resentment on this plan of the management of Saint Joseph College calling for the preservation of the structure instead of demolishing it.
The school management want to build a school building where the structure is located.
“I hope that the diocese won’t pursue this. I hope they won’t request further. But rather, save it, take good care of it, and use it to teach this generation more about Maasin, its history and culture,” said Amelia Fe Mancera, a cultural worker from the city.
“My suggestion for the last watchtower in Maasin City is to make it a memorabilia building in the significance of its historical heritage,” posted Armando Gaviola on Facebook.
On February 13, a concerned citizen Adel Macaldo also wrote to the NHCP, asking the commission “to have an exhaustive investigation on the alleged demolition” of the tower.
(RONALD O. REYES)