It’s 2021, and yet our culture and heritage still aren’t a priority (pandemic notwithstanding). Last year, we reported that the government had allegedly cut its 2021 restoration fund for heritage sites to reallocate it for COVID-19 response. An important cause, for sure.
Despite the current shortage of financial support, there are still other avenues being taken to at least continue to defend aspects of our culture. One such avenue is through legislation. Yesterday, Mar. 9, the House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill No. 8829, also known as the Cultural Property Sightline Act. The bill aims to amend Republic Act No. 10066, or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.
The bill was spurred on by the controversial Torre de Manila “photobombing” issue. In case you’ve already forgotten, the TL;DR of it is, in 2017, the Supreme Court lifted the temporary restraining order on the construction of Torre de Manila, which obstructed the view of the Rizal Monument. The Supreme Court, in 2017, noted that there is no law or local ordinance that prohibits the construction of the condominium “due to its effect on the background ‘view, vista, sightline, or setting’ of the Rizal Monument,” writes Rep. Edcel Lagman in his explanatory note of the bill.[READ: The government blatantly lacks cultural heritage literacy. Here’s why]
In 2018, another high-rise building that would disrupt views of a heritage site—this time the historical San Sebastian Church—began construction.
Years later, the bill that sets to put to law banning of structures that obstruct or disrupt views of our national cultural properties is nearing approval. ABS-CBN News reports that the House is set to vote on it again in three days. And as the standard law-making process goes, the bill will also have its Senate counterpart go through the three readings, before a conference committee settles the bill and transmits it for presidential approval.
What happens should it become law?
Should the measure be approved and the bill be signed into law, shrines, landmarks and monuments as declared by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines will be covered and protected. Under the bill, obstructive buildings or structures will be “condemned, demolished, and abated by the appropriate LGU (local government unit) at the expense of the violator,” the bill states.
Out of curiosity, I went on a quick “back reading” spree on the legislative documents posted on the Congress website. Punching in the search word “heritage” yielded 40 hits in bills and resolutions for the 18th Congress alone. A quick skim through also told me some of these bills remain pending in their respective committees. Some, like this recently approved Cultural Property Sightline Act, aim to amend parts of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.
While we continue to battle out this pandemic, as we regular citizens are expected to go back to business as usual, here’s hoping the same applies to our legislation—hopefully attention isn’t just focused on the numbers. After all, culture and heritage are intertwined into everything we do, too—be it business or even tourism.