Cebu tourism stakeholders can actually take legal action against those who threaten heritage sites, including private entities in whose properties the sites are situated.
This was among the “rights” they learned during the “Legal Framework for Heritage Protection” forum held at the Cebu Provincial Capitol Social Hall last August 29.
Organized by the Central Visayas Association of Museums in cooperation with the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office and Museo Sugbo, the forum had Atty. Lucille Karen Malilong as speaker.
Malilong was consultant to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, vice president of the Heritage Conservation Society, and representative to the International Council of Monuments and Sites.
She told the 75 participants about pertinent laws that they could cite in saving endangered sites, like the old Bonpua mansion in Oslob town that was torn down by the new owner.
They include Article XIV Section 14 of the Philippine Constitution, which sets that the “State shall foster the preservation, enrichment, and dynamic evolution of a Filipino national culture based on the principle of unity and diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expression”, while Section 16 of the same provision states that “(a)ll the country’s artistic and historic wealth constitutes the cultural treasure of the nation and shall be under the protection of the State which may regulate its disposition”.
Malilong said cultural property includes national history specimens and sites, which could be public or privately-owned, movable or immovable, or tangible or intangible.
She mentioned Republic Act. No. 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009); Republic Act No. 4846 (Cultural Properties Protection and Preservation Act); and Presidential Decree No. 260, which declared different specific sites, including the Basilica del Sto. Niño, as national shrines, monuments, and/or landmarks.
Joselito Costas, Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer, said the forum was especially helpful for tourism officers to know the laws they could lean on in enforcing that state’s rights over heritage sites takes precedence over private ownership.
“Most of our tourism stakeholders, especially the local government units, don’t know heritage laws that can be used for heritage policies. This (lecture forum) is a way for them to familiarize the laws,” he said.
“This comes at a time when people are talking on climate change adaptation on heritage. Tourism is the business expression of heritage. Tourism will support heritage conservation efforts, as receipts can be used to fund heritage restoration projects,” he added.
He suggested that local government units (LGUs) should include in their tourism plans heritage conservation, and they could only do so once they are familiar with the applicable laws.
During the forum, most questions centered on protection of heritage properties, on limitations set by laws, what LGUs could do to protect their heritage properties, and up to what extent they can impose on privately-owned sites.
Ma. Cecilia Cabañes, Museo Sugbo curator, said the forum was a big eye opener for the tourism officers and concerned representatives.
“Nakita sa LGUs nga naa gyud silay authority over heritage sites, that pwede naay intervention to compel private owners to reconsider the demolition (of heritage structures),”she said.
“Nalipay ko because na-realize na gyud ang gipangayo nilang lecture on heritage laws, kay finally na-guide-dan na ang LGUs unsaon nila pag-formulate ang ilang ordinance protecting local heritage. Kay ang uban wala kahibalo asa magsugod, naa bay penal clause,” she added.
She encouraged LGUs to already craft their respective ordinances on heritage protection to better protect the properties.
For Candice Acuña, Carcar City tourism officer, they understand why owners would sometimes destroy heritage structures since they want to earn from the lots the structures are located.
“We need to create incentives nga mo-entice sa owners. But we do not have laws for incentives. So kami sa Carcar, we have to do it. That is what Carcar City is doing, to come up with an Incentive Code to protect heritage sites,” she said, adding that the forum helped them figure out how to best craft the code.