By Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – The Diocese of Bacolod has temporarily stopped the restoration and repairs of the San Sebastian Cathedral here, pending the approval of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez said that he met with Bishop Patricio Buzon at the Bishop’s house over the weekend to discuss some things after the NHCP sent a letter last week conveying its concern about the Church’s restoration.
The Diocese has just started small repairs before the stoppage.
Benitez said that Buzon mentioned that they were kind of remiss about the things that they need to do before they proceed with the repairs and restoration.
He added that the church has discussed this with the NHCP and they have agreed that they will collaborate and follow the requirements of the Commission.
Buzon asked the mayor to help expedite NHCP’s approval of the project.
Benitez also checked the church and was informed about the need to repair old electrical wirings and make the structure safe from fire hazards.
The Diocese also does not intend to desecrate or defile the church by changing its appearance.
“It’s not as if i-desecrate or malaw-ay ang Cathedral. Ang ila plan was okay,” Benitez said, as he assured that the NHCP will give the Diocese the green light.
“Indi man puwede na indi ka repair, kay may wear and tear na ang building and structure. Patahumon ta,” the local chief executive said.
He said that the Church design will be the same. The Cathedral stands as an iconic religious landmark in the city.
Meanwhile, Benitez said that he also discussed with the bishop about the city’s prohibition of vendors at the public plaza.
Benitez said that he informed the bishop that they would no longer allow vendors at the plaza to preserve its visual effects.
He said that Buzon told him to write a letter to the Diocese so they could also take it up.
A row of stalls selling dry goods was only allowed at the plaza during the holiday season in December last year, and the portion covered was owned by the Church under a usufruct agreement with the local government.
Benitez said the city can find a way to compensate them with their fund-raising activity designed to support retired priests, who also need to be taken care of.
Earlier, Benitez said that the city government requested P300 million in funding from the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) for the improvement of the facilities at the public plaza and the Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC).
The proposed budget comprised P80 million for the installation of a water fountain at the plaza and P220 million for the renovation of the BCGC grounds.
Benitez said that part of the upgrade and beautification of the public plaza was putting up enhanced fountains, lights, and music.
He also presented this plan to the bishop during their meeting, and he said that they welcomed these improvements and expressed hope that the implemented changes would be sustained. “He (bishop) liked the proposal,” the mayor added.
Benitez is positive that they might be able to start with the said project by this year.