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Pia Cayetano: Rizal Monument named one of world’s threatened heritage sites

Senator Pia Cayetano announced during her speech at the Senate on Tuesday that the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has declared that the Rizal Monument in Rizal Park is now one of the world's threatened heritage sites.

Cayetano, who is also the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, said that she attended ICOMOS' 18th General Assembly in Florence, Italy last week, and that at the assembly it was decided that the Rizal Monument—along with Machu Picchu of Peru, El Camino de Santiago Compostela of Spain, and Australia's Dampier Archipelago—is now considered "in danger and in urgent need of government attention and necessitating protection."

ICOMOS is an advisory organization to the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) and an international body tasked to identify and protect heritage sites around the world.

The Rizal Monument's visual corridors are currently obstructed by the Torre de Manila, a resort-inspired high-rise condominium tower by DMCI Homes. The planned 49-storey building now stands 29 floors high.

"If we do not act now, if we do not set this right now, we stand to lose so much. The Rizal Shrine will forever be marred by this private structure. And not only that, we lose the opportunity to send the right message for all the other historical and cultural treasures that are threatened," she said.

The senator also called on her colleagues to support the conservation of other threatened heritage sites such as the Admiral Hotel, the Anda Monument and the Army and Navy Club, all in Manila. She also noted "the threats to Sta. Ana Heritage Zone, the plan by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to demolish the Dampol Arc Bridge in Nueva Vizcaya, and a road-widening project of the DPWH that will demolish ancestral houses in Palo, Leyte."

'City of Manila, gov't agencies did not follow the law'

In her speech, Cayetano also enumerated provisions in the Constitution that should have been enough to protect Rizal Monument from being "photobombed" by the building.

One of these is the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) 2011 Guidelines On Monuments Honoring National Heroes, Illustrious Filipinos And Other Personages. It states, "Monuments are landmarks of our cities, towns and provinces. They must be honored,  preserved and protected. Monuments should be given due prominence since they symbolize national significance."

The senator also stressed that the City of Manila and other government agencies failed to exercise and implement the law by giving DMCI Homes zoning and building permits. Because of this, Cayetano said, different government agencies are set to face some consequences.

"I will delve on the details of the violations and obligations of different government agencies in my Committee Report," she said.

During the August 27 Senate hearing on the issue, Cayetano previously expressed that demolition of Torre de Manila is a possibility. Administrative and criminal cases against government officials and even the private developer may also be filed. — Trisha Macas/BM, GMA News