Agoo’s basilica wall saved from demolition

AGOO, La Union – The National Commission for Culture and the Arts  has stopped the demolition of a walled fence near the Agoo Basilica,  one of the treasures of the Catholic Church in this province.

Workers started demolishing the fence but the Church, led by Bishop Rodolfo Beltran, obtained a “cease and desist order ” from the NCCA.

The Department of Public Works and Highways and  representatives of the construction firm working for the road widening project questioned the CDO because it was issued by the NCCA without conducting an inspection of the area or a hearing on the church complaint.

The fence, which encroached on more than three meters in the ‘road right of way,’ will hamper the ongoing construction and widening of the national highway, the DPWH said.

Felipe De Leon, NCCA chairman, issued the CDO against the demolition of the fence of the Plaza dela Virgen owned by the Agoo Basilica after representatives from the Diocese of San Fernando, La Union filed a complaint.

The CDO was issued a day before the DPWH was to give a ‘notice to proceed’ to the construction firm to start the project.

De Leon gave credence to the claim of the Catholic Church that the concrete fence has cultural and historical importance.

De Leon cited in his CDO that based on the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, all structures at least 50 years old are considered important cultural property and entitled to protection against demolition.

A veteran lawyer and a resident of Agoo said that the fence was built only after the 1990 killer quake which devastated this town and it’s not a significant structure because it is hazardous to travelers. The resident said it already caused several accidents in the area.

“It (fence) has become a urinating area and a garbage receptacle. It has no important historical background because it endangers human lives and   violates  the National Highway Act,” the lawyer said.

Bishop Beltran, in his letter to De Leon, said that they opposed the move because they find it absurd for anybody to apply to a property of cultural value and heritage the DPWH’s widening project.

Roy Aruta, DPWH project engineer, said the project was implemented after the DPWH district and regional offices and the provincial assessor’s office of La Union conducted separate surveys and measurement in the  area covered by the road widening.

The encroachment of the fence on the national road was also confirmed by the Church-deputized engineer who also conducted survey and measurement along the project.

“The Church’s survey found out that the fence has overshootby  three meters the 20-meters road right of way, an engineer said.

Aruta said they will abide by the CDO and willsuspend the demolition of the fence.

Representative Eufanio Eriguel, speaking in behalf of the local government of Agoo, said he wanted a consultation with all the parties concerned to clarify issues surrounding the project.

He said the project was bidded out on January 22 and the ‘notice to proceed’ was issued on Feb. 20 while the CDO was issued Feb. 21. 

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