The Ramon Cojuangco Building in Makati could lose its status as an important cultural property (ICP) if a petition from the the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Inc. succeeds. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) announced the filed petition in a public notice put out on May 17.
The building was designed in 1974 by National Artist for Architecture Leandro V. Locsin.
In the petition, PLDT said the 15-story building is “generic, nondescript, and purged of any references to local culture, tradition, climate, or identity of the place” and “does not demonstrate exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance.” It added that the Cojuangco Building “considerably differs from the distinctive style of Locsin.”
Under Section 3 of Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, an ICP is defined as “a cultural property having exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance to the Philippines, as shall be determined by the National Museum of the Philippines and/or National Historical Commission of the Philippines.”
PLDT, who commissioned Locsin to design the building, said it plans to redevelop and transform it into a modern, ecologically sustainable, and open campus-type headquarters.
Under RA 10066, ICPs are protected against exportation, modification, or demolition.
According to NCCA’s guidelines on delisting an ICP, filing a petition is followed by a verification of “the suitability of the cultural property subject of the petition for removal of presumption as ICP.” A mandatory two-level assessment and evaluation have also been done by architect Gerard Lico’s Arc Lico International Services Corporation.
The 60-page report, included in the publicized copy of the petition, concluded that the Cojuangco Building “does not represent the artistic merits of Locsin’s oeuvre, and is of negligible cultural, scientific, or social significance.”
The NCCA’s website describes Locsin’s works as exhibiting “floating volume, the duality of light and heavy, buoyant and massive.” He is the architect behind the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, which consists of five buildings: the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Philippine International Convention Center, Philcite, the Westin Hotel (now Sofitel Philippine Plaza), and the Folk Arts Theater.
What can we do?
Stakeholders—including but not limited to local government units, local culture and arts councils, local tourism councils, non-government conservation organizations, and schools—are encouraged to file their written support for or opposition to the said petition, NCCA announced. Any person adversely affected by said petition may email [email protected] not later than June 7. Extensions may be allowed, but in no case shall it exceed more than thirty (30) days.
Brutalist Pilipinas, a visual database of local Brutalist structures, was one of the first groups to express opposition to PLDT’s plans. Karl Castro, its research head, said in a statement, “The Filipino people have already lost a string of Locsin buildings in recent years… What then is the value of declaring him a National Artist if the state will do nothing to preserve his body of work for future generations?”
Castro was referring to the Mandarin Oriental which was demolished in 2015. Another Locsin-designed hotel, the InterContinental Manila, was also torn down the same year.
“I pray that the NCCA will do more to preserve the works of Locsin and all of our other national artists, in whatever form necessary,” Castro added.
Under NCCA guidelines, the petitioner/stakeholder shall give their answer within 15 days upon receipt of any position paper. The Panel of Experts shall then convene to assess the merits of the petition as well as the position papers. The NCCA Board has the final say on the matter. However, the petitioner may still file a motion for reconsideration to the board within 15 days after receipt of the decision. Should this motion be denied, the petitioner has the other option to file an appeal with the Office of the President within 15 days from receipt of the denial of their motion.