Will this save Santa Ana’s heritage?

There is a draft resolution emanating from all the councilors of the 6th district of Manila headed by Councilor Numero G. Lim, fondly called Numero Uno by his friends and constituents. Whether local or national, legislation always bears titles that are kilometrically lengthy and read more like colophons of another era.

Here is the title of the resolution in question: “A resolution directing the appropriate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation to investigate the environmental and socio-cultural impact of the construction of the Suntrust Ascsentia Condominium I in the vicinity of the Santa Ana Heritage Zone in Manila.”

You may have noticed, that many laws, decrees, resolutions usually have paragraphs beginning with “whereas” and in Councilor Nunero Uno’s resolution, there are 4 of them, to wit

“Whereas Santa Ana Heritage Zone located in Manila is a historical cultural landmark housing the cherished Santa Ana Church, officially known as the National Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned, a remarkable structure dating back over 300 years to the Spanish colonial era represents the last heritage structure in Manila.

“Whereas a 2014 Resolution by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared a significant portion of Santa Ana as a heritage zone as delineated under the National Cultural Heritage Act establishing a 200-meter radius safeguard surrounding Santa Ana Church where all new developments must adhere to the specified building characteristics, height and setback and maintain the integrity and reverence of the zone.

“Whereas the ongoing construction positioned approximately 170 meters from the Santa Ana Church raises deep concern among the residents of Barangay 885 regarding potential threats to their personal safety and well-being of their homes along with serious apprehensions for the fate of the treasured Santa Ana Church.

“Whereas the Suntrust Ascentia Condominium having secured an environmental compliance certificate allows for construction within the heritage zone’s borders potentially impacting the structural integrity of the historic church and disturbing the peace and tranquility of the community…

The four “whereas” paragraphs are then followed by 3 “Resolved” statements, to wit:

“Now therefore, be it resolved by the City Council of Manilas ‘as it is hereby resolved to form a committee to undertake a comprehensive investigation into the potential and environmental and socio-cultural repercussions of the Suntrust Ascentia project on Santa Ana Historical zone and its inhabitants.

“It is further resolved that said committee will collaborate with pertinent government agencies including but not limited to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the local government of Manila to facilitate a thorough investigation encompassing the technical nuances of construction, historical significance of the heritage zone and welfare of the community.

“Be it further resolved for the committee to solicit testimonies from the residents of Barangay 855 and other stakeholders to compile an accurate depiction of the disturbances potentially including revisions to purportedly emanating from the construction of the project.

“It is further resolved that the committee guided by the findings propose appropriate legislative actions to protect the heritage zone and enhance the quality of life of the residents potentially including revisions to existing policies guiding constructions in proximity to heritage zones. The final “Resolved” is to distribute Councilor Uno’s Resolution after its approval to concerned agencies for proper action and coordination.

I emailed the resolution to a lawyer friend who used to work in a Manila Regional Court and her reply was peppered with laughing emojis. Take note, she warned, the Resolution does not resolve that the construction should be stopped while the draft is being debated. She highlighted certain portions as “loopholes” and added that before the committees are through with their community inquiries and due diligence Suntrust Ascentia will have finished construction, a fait acompli. With a little bit of luck, there might be future legislation that might protect the historical homes, the banyans by the Pasig River, the Manila Boat Club and whatever else might survive the monetization of Santa Ana’s heritage.

Today, 28 September, there will be a hearing regarding the Santa Ana Heritage crisis conducted by the Committees of Arts and Culture Committee and of Environmental Protection in the Manila City Hall which, by the way, has just been declared a National Cultural Treasure.