Historic church raises concern over condo project at heritage zone

September 15, 2023 - 4:29 PM
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The construction area of the Ascentia condominium project by Sunstrust properties in Santa Ana Heritage Zone. (Little Wing Luna via CBCP News)

Tremors from construction within a heritage zone in Manila’s Sta. Ana district has raised concerns about potential damage to a Spanish-era parish church that houses “national cultural treasures.”

Not only has it created uninhabitable conditions for residents, but the construction of a condominium by Suntrust Properties, Inc. (SPI) is now a cause for concern to the centuries-old National Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned.

The parish is the site and setting of two declared national cultural treasures: the Camarin dela Virgen and the Sta. Ana Site Museum.

Franciscan Fr. Virgilio Del Mundo Jr., the parish priest, has expressed concern that the 11 unique frescoes in the Camarin “are in serious danger of irreparable damage” due to the “heavy pounding and frightening earth shaking, night and day”.

The frescoes depicting the life of Christ are the oldest known oil-on-wood paintings in the country.

He said one time the Fernando Amorsolo Elementary School had to evacuate its students, as they believed the intense shaking was an actual earthquake.

“We strongly object to the construction given the threat mentioned above to the neighborhood and to the long history of Santa Ana Church,” Del Mundo said.

The priest stated that the developer is constructing at least three condo towers, each 36 stories high, within the 200-meter buffer zone of the Sta. Ana heritage zone.

The parish has joined residents and heritage advocates in an effort to halt the condo project, even labeling the construction as “illegal.”

The developer has claimed to possess the necessary permits for the construction project.

However, the priest contends that the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) obtained by Suntrust was a “grave mistake.”

He said that the “heritage crisis” persists despite a court order directing SPI not to undertake any construction unless they have both an ECC and unconditional approval from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, “which SPI has not obtained to date.”

Del Mundo said that another issue is that three documents used by Suntrust to obtain a Zoning Clearance, City Council Resolution and Building Permit from the local government “are in question as being authentic”.

“These barangay documents were in fact not signed by the officials and neighbors whose signatures appear in them,” he said.

“In addition, the three documents obtained from Manila City Hall based on these questionable documents have long expired,” the priest added.

He said that even temporary permits from the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) are being questioned because “they are based on false information”, and the required conditions have not been met.