DAGUPAN CITY -- Pangasinan Second District Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil has assured the completion of the restoration of the old Casa Real, the first seat of the provincial government in Pangasinan during the Spanish era, by the middle of next year.

Bataoil said he followed up with the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) upon learning that the PHP50-million financial commitment of the agency for the project had not been released yet.

Pangasinan Tourism Officer Malu Elduayan told newsmen that the new administration of TIEZA agreed to give financial assistance but only half of its previous commitment or PHP25 million. 

Bataoil said he immediately got in touch with the officials of TIEZA and learned from the agency that it had not withdrawn its commitment and is still giving the full amount of PHP50 million but would release this on staggered basis.

The restoration of Casa Real is one of Bataoil's pet projects in his district.   

The congressman said that per his talk with TIEZA officials, the release of the amount was only delayed due to some validation that needed to be done but the first PHP20 million is “now on the way”. 

The PHP50 million from TIEZA will fund the third phase of restoration of Casa Real because the first and second phases of the project are already completed.

Construction of the first phase (PHP5 million) was funded by the Pangasinan provincial government while the second phase fund of PHP30 million came from the Department of Public Works and Highways.

"We are waiting for the release of the third tranche of funds coming from TIEZA but accordingly, they can only provide for PHP20 million for now for the purpose of completing the needed special features of the project," Bataoil said.

“Third phase of the project is the completion of other features, including the perimeter fence, road leading to Casa Real and also the needed equipment and facilities which are in accordance with past agreement with the past TIEZA officials," Bataoil said.

"I was able to get the commitment of the new TIEZA chief and expect that his administration will ensure the continuity of the project," Bataoil added.

He explained the importance of the project and how it means a lot for the province and its almost 3 million population.

Bataoil said Casa Real is the centerpiece of cultural heritage of Pangasinan, being its first provincial capitol erected during Spanish time.

Casa Real was a picture of neglect until Bataoil and then Governor Amado Espino Jr., now congressman of the fifth district of Pangasinan, planned to have it restored to its original grandeur and glory to become a legacy to all the people of Pangasinan especially the coming generations.

Once restored, it will be a depository of artifacts and old mementos of the province and hopefully will turn into another tourist attraction. (PNA)