The century-old customs house in Cebu City which was converted into the Malacañang sa Sugbo during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (PNA photo by John Rey Saavedra) 

CEBU CITY -- The provincial and city governments of Cebu have asked President Rodrigo Duterte to approve the plan to convert the century-old Aduana (customs house) building, which later became the Malacañang sa Sugbo, into a Cebu branch of the National Museum.

Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, on Tuesday said Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and the Cebu City Council support the plan to convert the historical building into a museum that will be managed by the National Museum of the Philippines.

“They have expressed their full support on our idea to have a national museum in Cebu City. They wrote President Duterte expressing their desire to have a museum. Our place is very rich in history but we lack a facility that will house ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological, and visual arts collections that are specific of Cebu,” Dino said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The city council of Cebu unanimously approved the resolution to “appeal to our beloved President Duterte to give his nod on the laudable plan to house the National Museum branch of Cebu at the Malacañang sa Sugbo.”

The resolution sponsored by Councilor Renato Osmeña Jr., said transforming the Malacañang sa Sugbo into a national museum will create a “triumvirate” of historical attractions that “is expected to attract millions of tourists and in the process, fuel our local tourism industry and boost the national economy as a whole.”

According to Osmeña, the Cebu branch of the national museum will complete the triumvirate, as the old building that used to function as customs house in the Port of Cebu is located at the seaside wing of the historical Plaza Independencia and the Fort San Pedro, the oldest fort built by the Spaniards in the country.

The city government wants the future museum here to “help promote heritage and cultural awareness through exhibitions, and provide linkages with local government units and other stakeholders in the area.”

Garcia, for her part, sent a letter to Duterte, expressing her support to the plan to make the Malacañang sa Sugbo a regional depository of historical artifacts that will trace Cebu’s history and heritage.

“I am very supportive of the idea of our very own nationally supported museum located right here in Cebu. If the National Museum in Cebu comes to fruition, it will serve as beacon for tourists from all over the world, considering the rich history and culture that the structure represents, not only for Cebuanos, but for the entire Filipino people,” Garcia said in her July 19 letter, a copy of which was sent to media on Tuesday.

The governor said the plan will “help uplift the tourism industry in Cebu.”

Glenn Castillo, acting general manager of the Cebu Port Authority (CPA), also said in a letter to Duterte that the government-owned and controlled corporation managing province-wide wharves and ports, “welcomes” the opening of a museum in the old customs house.

He, however, said they reiterated their request to the President to revert the berthing spaces behind the Malacañang sa Sugbo to the management of the CPA. Berths 29 and 30 have been left unutilized since the order of then President Gloria Arroyo to convert the former Aduana as Malacañang of the South.

The port authority here also wanted to open the roads surrounding the Malacañang sa Sugbo to public and private cars in order to ease traffic in the congested port area, he said.

Also, the Dibuhu Art Group here, through its head artist Wilfredo Cañete Jr., communicated with Evangeline “Luli” Arroyo-Bernas, daughter of former President and House Speaker Arroyo, and expressed their interest to help turn the building into a national museum.

“This would also inspire our artists and young Cebuanos to contribute and leave a legacy to our great nation,” Cañete said in his letter to Bernas. (PNA)