China-funded bridge no risk to San Agustin Church's UNESCO status

By Azer Parrocha

November 22, 2018, 5:42 pm

MANILA -- The construction of the PHP4.243-billion Binondo-Intramuros Bridge across the Pasig River will not threaten the status of San Agustin Church and three other Baroque churches as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site, Malacañang assured on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this assurance following concerns raised by UNESCO that the China-funded bridge would encroach on the “buffer zone” required by the organization for the churches to be a World Heritage site.

Panelo allayed fears that the bridge would encroach on the buffer zone, which includes the walls of Intramuros, saying the contractor already assured that it will not.

Moreover, he said that if it will encroach on the buffer zone, the government will have all the reason to object the construction of the bridge.

“It may encroach. But I was listening in the news story yesterday (Wednesday) that the contractor is saying that it will not,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“We don’t know exactly whether or not it will, because if it will, then certainly it is right to object,” he added.

Asked if the government intended to object confirmed that there will be an encroachment, Panelo said that the location for the bridge’s construction may not cause problems if it is built a hundred meters away.

“Not necessarily ‘not push through’, because you may remove the locations to maybe a hundred meters away. I don’t think that will be a problem,” Panelo said.

Panelo, meanwhile, cited the importance of San Agustin and the three other churches as part of the country’s history and heritage.

“That is a World Heritage. It’s part of our history,” Panelo said.

Aside from the San Agustin Church, which was built by the Spanish in the late 16th century, the three other churches that are at risk of being removed from the UNESCO World Heritage List are San Agustin in Paoay in Ilocos Norte; Nuestre Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; and Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo.

In 1993, these Baroque churches were collectively declared as World Heritage Site. If the San Agustin Church is removed from the list, the three others will follow.

On their website, UNESCO cited the churches for their “unique architectural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen.”

The PHP4.243 billion Binondo-Intramuros Bridge project has two-way four lanes with a total length of 734 meters, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

It is envisioned to provide Binondo District with a new link to Intramuros and vice versa. (PNA)