Heritage and culture protection lost another battle, this time in Manila, with the approval of a massive tower “Torre de Manila” overlooking Rizal Park and the surrounding historical buildings. The court decision proves again that money is more important than history or heritage.
A high-rise condominium dubbed “the national photobomber” will continue to loom over a historic Philippine monument after the Supreme Court struck down a bid by conservationists to have it torn down.
The partially-built 49-storey Torre de Manila, which protrudes over the skyline of the capital, has risen to overshadow the tomb of national hero Jose Rizal – one of the country’s most photographed monuments. Tower’s developper DMCI was given the green light in June 2012 by securing a zoning permit that allows the company to build the Torre de Manila in an area where mostly low-raise buildings were allowed.
However, in November 2013, the Manila City Council suspended the building’s construction citing zoning violation. An exemption to zoning was again provided to DMCI. However, activist and tour guide Carlos Celdran launched an online petition demonstrating that the tower breached city building code, leading the Supreme Court to issue in June 2015 a new injunction preventing its completion while it reviewed the case.
Social media gave to the tower the nickname of “Terror de Manila “and “Pambansang Photobomb” (lit. National Photobomb). This week, the Supreme Court finally indicated in a statement that it had no jurisdiction over the issue.
“The Court also found that there is no law that prohibits the construction of the challenged Torre de Manila,” the court added.
DMCI, the developer of the condominium, said it “welcomes the fair and just decision of the Supreme Court” and announced plans to resume work immediately.
Professor Ian Morley, a historian of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who has studied the case called the verdict “disappointing”, but said it was not surprising given that the law gives little weight to heritage arguments.
“The decision today is a legal precedent; it sets a marker where heritage is on the context of Philippine national development,” he told AFP.
The decision was met with anger and derision on social media. “Sucks that the Philippine Supreme Court favours corporate interests over respect for national heritage,” one critic posted on Twitter. “It’s a sad day for Jose Rizal, Manila and proper urban planning,” Carlos Celdran tweeted.
Rizal campaigned for reforms under Spanish colonial rule and was jailed and later executed in 1896 by firing squad at the park that now holds his tomb and monument.