No more cable wires, informal settlers: Intramuros’ historic look set to be revived

Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 09 2019 03:47 PM

Students, couples, and tourists tour and have their pictures taken at Fort Santiago in Intramuros at sunset, February 11, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA – A conservation management plan (CMP) is being developed for the protection of the historic district of Intramuros here, which includes underground cabling and the relocation of informal settler families. 

Set to be finished by October, the CMP will be the first for a national cultural treasure urban heritage district which will outline everything that needs to be done for disaster resiliency, said Sheena Anjeli Botiwey, technical assistant to the administrator of the Intramuros Administration (IA).

The CMP will also map out how to ensure that the heritage structures in the walled area is protected and developed in a way that is still faithful to the essence of the 16th to 19th century district, she added. 

“Hindi tayo puwedeng develop lang nang develop. We have to remember that there’s nothing like Intramuros,” Botiwey told ABS-CBN News. 

“So hindi tayo basta-basta magpapatayo ng mga building; hindi tayo basta-basta magpapatumba ng mga existing structure diyan.”

(We cannot just develop and develop. We have to remember that there’s nothing like Intramuros. We cannot just construct buildings; we cannot just demolish existing structures there.)

Intramuros, an urban heritage district with proper zoning and historic-cultural identity, covers an area of 64 hectares, with graying stone walls stretching to 4.5 kilometers. It was the locus of Spanish Imperial power in Asia, seat of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, and home of the oldest universities and colleges in Asia. 

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The IA, an attached agency of the Department of Tourism, on March 27 entered into an agreement with the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) for the resettlement and relocation of about 500 informal settler families living inside the walled city. 

The resettlement of the initial batch of beneficiaries, who are currently living on the property owned by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, is targeted to be completed by 2021. Two larger communities composed of about 1,000 families may be included in the second phase of the initiative. 

To implement the project, an initial amount of P410 million was made available to SHFC to cover the costs for land acquisition, site development, and house construction. 

The fund will also cover subsidy grants for livelihood initiatives, road right-of-way to the project site, establishment of settlement management, social preparation, and capacity building of stakeholders. 

Underground cabling was already completed in Plaza de Roma, a major public square in the district surrounded by three important landmarks such as the Manila Cathedral, Palacio del Gobernador, and Ayuntamiento de Manila. The project is set to be implemented in other parts of Intramuros and would need an estimated P500 million budget.

IA is also planning to undertake comprehensive drainage and waterways rehabilitation and repair, and implement a coherent repaving and re-landscaping strategy to enhance Intramuros as a walkable and livable environment.

Former looks of historical structures in Intramuros are being displayed at the newly-opened Museo de Intramuros

“Intramuros, it’s the symbol of the resiliency of the Filipino people. Just imagine all the wars that happened in Intramuros. Before the wars, this was Manila’ center, this was the Pearl of the Orient,” Botiwey said. 

She continued: “I know mahirap ibalik na maging Intramuros ulit ’yung center of the whole of Manila (I know it is hard to make Intramuros the center of Manila again), but then this has to be the reminder of the people that we were colonized by so many nations, we’ve been through war, earthquake, and fire and this city is the symbol of how the Filipinos always rise up.”

Botiwey said IA is only challenged with its “very limited” budget for its restoration and development efforts. 

In a speech during the opening of Museo de Intramuros on April 29, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said the department will be investing more in the promotion of cultural tourism in the following years.

“We’re doing it not just because we need to expand our tourism products, engage a specific market and increase revenue. Cultural tourism is telling the world our narrative. It is also a frame to ensure that our heritage structures and objects such as these will be preserved and enjoyed by our progeny,” Puyat said.