Oct 252013
Residents try to put out a fire in Malabon city, north of Manila, October 21, 2013. The fire razed fifty houses and displaced an estimated 100 residents, local media reported.(MNS photo)

Residents try to put out a fire in Malabon city, north of Manila, October 21, 2013. The fire razed fifty houses and displaced an estimated 100 residents, local media reported.(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – More than P100 million is needed to restore or rebuild four churches in Bohol that were heavily damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the province and other parts of central Visayas last week.

Atty. Trixie Angeles, the legal counsel of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the agency’s vice chairwoman for the national committee on monuments and sites, said a lot of money is needed to address the structures of the St. Peter’s Church in Loboc, the Baclayon Church and two small churches in Tawis and Luay.

She stressed, however, that they still have to collate the opinions of other experts to come up with a final budget.

“We have something in the back of our heads but this is not a final amount… We know it is going to be more than a hundred million to address four structures because they need to be retrofitted. They need to be shored up. There have to be tests done on the structure itself to see if any of the foundations have been compromised, and so on,” Angeles said.

Angeles added that they also have to “consider the feelings of the stakeholders,” saying that they do not want to end up putting the heritage structures “in a glass case.”

“The best heritage structures are the ones that are being used because they are appreciated. We don’t want to put heritage in a glass case or a bottle and say, ‘look.’ We want people to use them, to appreciate them,” she explained.

“We don’t want to put the structure back together to fossilize it, meaning, you don’t hold masses. We can’t do that. For it to be relevant, the idea is for it to be used.”

Angeles shared that the NCCA has finished with what she called a “rapid assessment” of the damaged heritage structures in Bohol, which will soon be followed by in-depth research and studies.

“This means eyes only, no assessment yet of deep or possibly structural damage. This is so we can initiate already the protocols, prioritization, frameworks for funding and other administrative tasks,” she said.

She added that they will send reports to the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management to see if funds can be released to help address the damage caused by last week’s quake on Bohol’s heritage sites.

Earlier, Angeles was quoted as saying that they would need around P100 million to restore or build new churches on ten historic churches in Bohol and Cebu.

No funds?

While Angeles cited the national endowment fund for culture and the arts, she said not all of it is set aside for conservation since it covers all of NCCA’s activities.

She mentioned a second endowment fund, which she referred to as the endowment fund for conservation, but it has not reached them yet.

“Unfortunately, although the law took effect in 2010, the task to provide the seed money for that endowment fund has not been done yet despite our requests to do so,” she said.

“We’re hoping that those agencies will be moved to provide the funding they could have provided back in 2010. We’re talking about simply establishing the national endowment fund for conservation. We don’t have the kind of money yet that will completely address the damage to the declared structures in Bohol.”

Despite this, Angeles said there have been efforts to help from the private sector, the local government and the owners of the damaged churches.

“They are willing to cooperate with the NCCA so the restoration, repair, rehabilitation or reconstruction is in accordance with conservation standards,” she said.

To those who are planning to give donations, Angeles suggested that they bring it to the churches, or to the NCCA.

“So far the churches and the NCCA seem to have the structures to accept donations…. Although we would say that the churches need them first,” she said.

She went on to stress that more than the churches, the people of Bohol need donations now more than ever.

“We will not say that conservation takes precedence over human life, it never does. So we want them to take care of the stakeholders first,” she said.(MNS)

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