MANILA – A massive fire hit the iconic Manila Post Office in Manila late Sunday night.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said the blaze reached the first alarm at 11:41 p.m. Sunday and reached general alarm shortly before 6 a.m. Monday.
It was declared fire under control as of 7:22 a.m., Manila Fire Department Fire Superintendent Christine Doctor-Cula said in a Facebook post.
The Manila city government headed by Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan is in talks with Philippine Post (PHLPost) Office through Postmaster General Luis Carlos for any assistance the city can provide to the national heritage site.
On the other hand, the PHLPost ordered nearby branches in Manila to assist its clients.
Carlos also expressed sadness over the unfortunate incident that gutted the Post Office which is an heritage site and frequently visited by people.
"We express grief and saddened on this unfortunate incident. We didn’t expect this to happen but we assured the public that all PHLPost branches is going business as usual. There is nearby post office in Manila and other parts in Metro Manila where the public can send their mails and packages,” he said in a statement.
"We are closely coordinating with the Bureau of Fire (Protection) on the possible cause of the fire,” the PHLPost official added.
He reported that they will look for temporary office and our letter carriers will be house at the nearby post office.
It was reported that fire started at the basement of the building and affected the rest of the structure.
A 43-year-old fire brigade volunteer was injured in the fire.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the blaze.
Philippine Red Cross (PRC) chairman and chief executive officer Richard Gordon lamented the massive damage to the neo-classical building, located in Liwasang Bonifacio.
“It is disheartening that a national treasure now lies in ruins,” he said in a news release. “I want to express my utmost regret and consternation at the loss of this heritage treasure!”
During his tenure as Tourism secretary, Gordon said “we were at a crucial stage where the owners of the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore were going to convert it into a 5-star hotel, similar to what they did with the old post office of Singapore.”
“However, the events in 2003 failed to establish the nation's stability and prevented the agreement. I hope that we can still have it rehabilitated, following the example of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” he added.
As soon as the PRC Operations Center received the report about the fire, it deployed a fire truck, one fire tanker, four ambulances, 12 firefighters and personnel.
“I commend our volunteer responders who are always ready to be at the scene, working tirelessly alongside the BFP,” Gordon said.
As a historical landmark, the central Post Office building must rise again, Deputy Speaker and Batangas 6th District Rep. Ralph Recto said in a news release.
“Government should rebuild the National Post Office Building. Fast, and not in slow mail fashion. So, when they come knocking on the doors of Malacañang for help, the postmen must not ring twice,” Recto said.
As to the possible source of funds, Recto mentioned the PHP13-billion contingent fund, which is the national emergency fund controlled by the President.
“Nandiyan din ang (There is also the) NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) or Calamity Fund, which has a beginning 2023 available balance of P19.03 billion,” Recto said.
Taipans can also help in reconstruction and their donations, under Section 35 of Republic Act 10066 (Philippine Registry of Cultural Property) “shall be exempt from the donor’s tax and the same shall be considered as allowable deduction from the gross income in the computation of the income tax of the donor."
DBM backs swift restoration
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said that it will undertake all necessary measures to extend support and cooperation for the swift restoration or rehabilitation of the Central Post Office building.
DBM also backed the calls of lawmakers to find ways and solutions to fund the necessary works to "restore the old glory" of the historical building.
"As the DBM, under the strong leadership of Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman advocates for the preservation and promotion of our country’s arts, culture and history, we commit to closely coordinate, and work hand-in-hand with the Philippine Postal Corporation and other concerned agencies, so as to determine the extent of the damage, listen to their plans, as well as to assess their immediate funding needs," the DBM said in a statement.
The Post Office building, which was declared Important Cultural Property (ICP) by the National Museum, was inaugurated in 1927 and designed by foremost Filipino architects Tomas Mapua and Juan Arellano.
Under the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 or Republic Act 10066, all cultural properties declared as ICP may receive government funding for its protection, conservation, and restoration in times of armed conflict, natural disasters and other exceptional events that endanger the cultural heritage of the country. (with reports from Filane Mikee Cervantes/Zaldy De Layola/PNA)