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Chamber opposes China-funded Binondo-Intramuros bridge

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By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The proposed construction of the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, one of two China-funded projects across Pasig River, has been strongly opposed by a business group and other stakeholders saying it will destroy the protected historical building, structures and sites of Intramuros.

In a position paper, the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands, the country’s forerunner business organization since the Spanish colonization, supported by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the UNESCO, and other stakeholders in support of the preservation of Intramuros and Binondo heritages sites, stood pat against the encroachment of the China bridge, in the name of development, on the country’s national patrimony.

According to the document, the Chinese-funded bridge will destroy the historical Chamber of Commerce building, the historical environment of Intramuros including the Plaza de Mexico Park and Monument, Intendencia, Puerta Isabel Monument, and the very walls of Intramuros itself.

The P4.243-billion Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, a flagship project of the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, has two-way four lanes with a total length of 734 meters upon completion within 30 months. Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and President Rodrigo Duterte led the groundbreaking ceremony of two China-aid bridge project on July 17 in Intramuros, Manila.

The Chamber pointed out that its building, third from the corner of the Jones Bridge, is protected by Republic Act 10066, which prohibits and criminalizes the act of “modifying, altering, or destroying the original features of or undertaking construction or real estate development in any national shrine, monument, landmark and other historic edifices and structures, declared, classified, and market by the National Historical Institution.” As a historical institution and business chamber spanning the Spanish, American and post Martial Law eras, the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands was created by Royal Edict in 1886. The historical building that firmly stands until today was inaugurated in 1937 by Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon and graced by General Douglas MacArthur.

As such, the Chamber in its letter to the Department of Public Works and Highways stressed that the encroachment of a bridge in the name of development and traffic management strategy cannot be pursued within the protected historical zone.

“The Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Island Site and Structure, along with Intramuros, is our national heritage and national patrimony as a people and country. It is the soul of who we are as a nation. It must therefore be protected and revered,” the position letter said.

Stakeholders also stressed that the planned new Binondo-Intramuros Bridge is very close to the Jones Bridge (five-minute walk), which has no traffic as congestion occurs only at both ends of the bridge due to parking issues going to Divisoria and the traffic in the Lawton area.

The planned bridge will also clog traffic of Magallanes Drive caused by the “dreadful” Bureau of Immigration Building, the letter added.

“The damaging effect of road vibration, noise, air pollution and traffic congestion caused by the Bureau of Immigration, needs to be solved soonest, rather than adding to the problem by building an unnecessary bridge in the specific area that will feed more traffic and pollution into the Magallanes drive Intramuros,” the letter added.

Instead of destroying this historical zone, the Chamber has suggested the expansion of the Del Pan Bridge, which is totally inadequate for the cargo trucks that travel to and from the north and south piers, congesting the area of both approaches and ever clogs up Intramuros, especially Roxas Boulevard all the way to Pasay destroying the promenade environment and beauty of Manila Bay, Rizal Park, Manila Hotel, Army Navy Club, US Embassy, the former Chinese embassy site, and Cultural Center Complex.

One option presented by the Chamber is to construct a new bridge beside Del Pan bridge that may be a gateway from the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea into the Pasig River. Expansion of the Jones Bridge may also be considered, the Chamber stated.

Ramon A. Pedrosa, chairman emeritus of the Chamber reminded the government that “Advanced civilizations of the world do everything to preserve the vestiges, relics and monuments of their past, while the decadent, and the savage destroy theirs. The historical Chamber building and site and other Intramuros structures and sites, are part and parcel of that national patrimony. No bridge should take precedence over such a glorious past that has created the present.”

“Why trample on a heritage. Preservation of heritage is not exclusive to development, it must go hand in hand, but development must preserve heritage not destroy it,” added Chamber President Jose Luis U. Yulo Jr.

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