Mayor defends lawfulness of Central Market demolition

Cranes begin working on the lot of what used to be the Iloilo Central Market which was opened to the public in 1912. (Joseph Bernard A. Marzan photo)

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas affirmed on Monday, April 22, that the demolition of Iloilo City Public Market’s façade complied with legal procedures, despite not initiating a delisting process with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

At an April 22 press briefing, Treñas reiterated his previous assertion that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) had consented to the redevelopment, which includes the Central Market and the adjacent Iloilo City Terminal Market.

Both projects are being undertaken by SM Prime Holdings Inc.

Since news confirming the Central Market demolition broke out, the mayor’s Facebook page reposted statements of support from the public and private sectors and market stakeholders, for the redevelopment of the Central Market and the nearby Iloilo City Terminal Market.

The NHCP designated the city’s Central Business District as a ‘Historic Center’ in 2014, which encompasses the Central Market.

Addressing concerns of lack of public consultation, Treñas mentioned discussions with market vendors and stressed the urgency of the demolition, comparing it to the collapsed Cacho Building.

He also cited the current site of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) offices beside city hall, which will soon become a parking lot building for the city government.

“We consulted with all of the vendors. The vendors are all aware [of the demolition]. The parapet was already crumbling. The second floor was already collapsing. It was fortunate that no one had died. There were people who died at the Cacho Building [when it collapsed],” Treñas remarked.

“We’re not gearing away [from] heritage conservation, but first and foremost, we have to factor in the safety of the people,” he added.

A letter from the NHCP under then chairperson Rene Escalante to City Architect Regina Gregorio in 2023 expressed agreement with the market’s development plans due to its restoration potential.

But the same letter did not indicate any clear statement from the NHCP that it did not object to the total demolition of the structure.

“Upon review of the documents and proposed development plans of the old lloilo Central Market, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) is amenable to the project since it will restore the original architectural character of the old Iloilo Central Market. We would appreciate if you could furnish us with the copy of the periodic reports, for our reference,” Escalante’s letter read.

This was the only paragraph referring to the city government’s plans for the central market’s building.

Despite the market’s status as a Presumed Important Cultural Property under the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 or Republic Act No. 10066, Treñas claimed there was no need for NCCA permission for the project.

Under Section 5 of the said law, for purposes of protecting a cultural property against exportation, modification or demolition, a structure dating at least 50 years old, unless declared by the NHCP, shall be considered cultural property.

A June 30, 1912 report of the Philippine Commission under the United States’ War Department indicated that the Central Market was opened to the public on January 15, 1912.

Section 4 of 10066, which was amended by R.A. 11961, provides that ICPs and cultural properties within heritage zones, which the central market falls under, is considered a Grade II Level cultural property.

Section 8 of the law also provides for its delisting process, which involves a petition to be filed by the owner of the property, which, in the case of the central market, is the city government, with the NCCA.

The same provision outlines due process for the delisting of cultural properties, which includes notices of hearing to stakeholders, and allowing the filing of position papers with the NCCA.

Daily Guardian was also able to verify that the Central Market has remained listed as a Local Cultural Property in the NCCA’s Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP) as of this writing.

Daily Guardian has likewise reached out to the NCCA for confirmation on the market’s Presumed ICP status and for further comment, but they have yet to respond as of this writing.

1 COMMENT

  1. The author is correct in stating that a petition for the removal of presumption of the Iloilo Central Market as presumed Important Cultural Property (ICP) must be filed first by the city government of Iloilo before taking any action on the building. The city government may file the petition with NCCA which shall endorse it to NHCP or directly to NHCP owing to the latter’s jurisdiction over the property because it is more than 50 years of age. NHCP shall act on the petition on the basis of the building’s historical significance and if its current state at the time of the petition still carries such significance. The proposed development of the building should not serve as the basis for acting on the petition. In the process of deliberating the petition, NHCP should allow any stakeholder to file their position on the said petition within a certain number of days. Because a petition was not filed, the public was deprived of this opportunity. If the NHCP finds merit on the petition, then it shall remove the presumption and the city government may proceed with any action on the building without having to submit the development plan to NHCP for its review and approval. With the ICP status removed, it means the building is not historically significant and NHCP is bereft of any jurisdiction over any intervention on the building. On the other hand, if the petition is denied, then NHCP declares the Iloilo Central Market as an ICP. Only then shall the city government submits a development plan to NHCP for its review and approval because the basis of NHCP’s review is to ensure that the historical significance it found (and served as the basis of the declaration) is preserved despite any intervention.

    It is clear that the approval of the plan by NHCP is being used as a justification that the process outlined in RA 10066, as amended by RA 11961, has been complied. This is incorrect. But knowing these agencies, they will not admit it. Because NHCP and NCCA have interlocking board memberships, it is unlikely that NCCA will call NHCP’s attention over this failure to comply with the process. Citizens must remain vigilant over the issue.

Comments are closed.