Casa Vallejo as heritage site up for study-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
COMMITTEE on Education, Culture and Historical Research chairman Councilor Peter Fianza said turning historic Casa Vallejo into a heritage site will not supersede the rights of the ancestral land claimant to develop the property.
He said existing heritage law only recognizes the heritage value of the property but does not relinquish ownership.
Fianza, whose committee will decide the resolution urging President Benigno Aquino III to declare the Casa Vallejo Building as a heritage site, said the measure will need further study and consultation before being passed by the body.
The resolution was penned by Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda.
Fianza stressed Tabanda’s proposal, which is a controversial measure, will still be studied and reviewed by the committee and will come up with possible recommendations.
He explained initial observations made by his office showed the declaration of Casa Vallejo as a heritage site does not relinquish control and ownership of the property to the government.
“If the property is private it remains as a private property,” he said.
Current laws on declaration of these properties as heritage sites, Fianza said, only gives authority to government, through the National Historical Institute, to assist in restoring and developing the property. However, the authority to develop continues to rest with the owner.
According to the councillor, proposals the restoration of a heritage site will still be heard by the NHI. These proposals, however, will still need the approval of the owner of the structure and lot.
Fianza also pointed out the current heritage conservation law also recognizes the preservation of culture including ancestral lands and Indigenous People’s rights.
“If we are to declare that [as a heritage site] whose culture are we preserving? Whose culture or heritage?” he said.
“The heritage law states that if there is no way to preserve the property, at least, a historical account could be made before the demolition of the property,” he said.
He added heritage preservation deals with cultural identity. Reason why his committee is carefully studying the proposed resolution stressing many people may be confused on what cultural identity the city is trying to preserve.
The local legislator added residents must be appraised on whose cultural identity is being preserved in Casa Vallejo.
“This will be some of the issues which the committee will look into whose culture, history and identity are to be preserved in the city. So we could not come up with a sweeping declaration that Casa Vallejo represents Baguio City,” he said.
Meantime, Councilor Tabanda in her proposed resolution stressed the building’s grandeur depicts old Baguio and its history.
“Considering the richness of the building’s history, the structure is already part of Baguio’s rich culture and heritage. It is now considered as belonging to the people of Baguio,” she said in the resolution.
The impending takeover by the ancestral land claimant and its impending sale to a corporation may cause physical and cultural destruction of a site considered as a century-old historical landmark, Tabanda added in the resolution.
The historic Casa Vallejo Hotel built in 1909 by the American as a dormitory for construction workers is one of the few remaining buildings which survived carpet bombing during World War II.
However, the land where the existing structure of Casa Vallejo stands was also recently relinquished to an Ibaloi family by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples through a Writ of Possession in favor to the heirs of Cosen Piraso, particularly the Acop family.
Last week, tenants at the building leased out by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ National Resource Development Corporation were surprised to receive notices of eviction from the Office of the City Sherriff enforcing the order of the commission.
A sit down protest was also held Tuesday in front of the building in protest of the NCIP decision.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 15, 2014.