REMOVE WALKWAY. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has ordered the removal of the walkway leading to the Anini-y church. The Department of Public Works and Highways Antique Engineering District on Friday (March 19, 2021) instructed the contractor to carry out the order. (Photo Courtesy of DPWH Antique)

SAN JOSE DE BUENAVISTA, Antique – The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has ordered the removal of the PHP19-million covered walkway constructed in the parish plaza leading to the 383-year old St. John Nepomuceno Church or the Anini-y church in the municipality of Anini-y, Antique.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Antique Architect Golda Mae Arnaez said in an interview Friday that District Engineer Joselito Antonio has already informed the walkway project contractor, B. Bernardo Construction, Inc., about the letter of the NHCP ordering the removal of the walkway.

“NHCP chairman Rene Escalante, in his letter dated March 11, said the Technical Working Group (TWG) on Heritage Issues during their meeting disapproved the construction of the covered walkway,” Arnaez said.

The TWG on Heritage Issues is composed of representatives from the NHCP, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), and the DPWH, which met last March 9, 2021 and disapproved the construction of vertical structures.

Arnaez added that Escalante's letter suggested that the parking area be relocated farther from the plaza to preserve and protect the architectural integrity of the historical place.

On Feb. 9, 2021, Escalante also wrote to DPWH Antique saying the ongoing rehabilitation of the parish plaza "is desecrating the spacious and magnificent facade of the church".

He added that all Spanish and American period plazas and public squares are declared as National Historical Sites through the Board Resolution No. 7, s. 2018.

In a separate interview with Anini-y Municipal Mayor Maxfil Policar, he said that they take pride in having the church as a heritage site in the province.

He said the church was built by the early Augustinian missionaries who shared the Catholic religion with the locals.

“The church, which is 383 years old now, has a majestic baroque architecture,” he said. It was built using coral and limestone materials abundant in the coastal municipality.

“We envisioned it (covered walkway) to be like Luneta Park where there is a foot walk which would relate to the actual beauty of the Baroque church,” Policar said.

He, however, would like the DPWH and the contractor to closely coordinate with the NHCP so that they could also be properly guided as to the project implementation.

Arnaez also said that the NHCP, in its March 11 letter, in a way lifted the Cease and Desist Order (CDO) issued last February 9, thus, the contractor could already resume their work.

“The contractor is expected to resume work as soon as possible but they have to follow the NHCP new order to dismantle the constructed concrete walkway and the relocation of the proposed parking area,” she said.

She said that this is also in adherence with NHCP Resolution No. 7 s. 2018 on the preservation of the open spaces of the historic plaza. (PNA)