Taytay ni Juan

IT WAS PROUDLY ANNOUNCED in August 2019, that soon in Taytay will rise a 245-bed capacity hospital project which will be the biggest of its kind in Rizal Province (sic). It is named “Rizal Provincial Hospital System (RPHS-Taytay Annex).” It could have remained good news had its originally chosen location in Brgy. Muzon has not been changed and moved to the crowded town center.

Through a series of local legislations—Sangguniang Bayan Resolution Nos. 15, 74, 78, 84, 220 and Ordinance No. 18—the new “designated location of the project comprised the combined sites of the Old Municipal Building-cum-Ancestral Home, San Juan Gym, Taytay Emergency Hospital, and the adjacent road/s between them.” That effectively encroached on the heritage properties of Taytayeños without the benefit of public consultation. Thus, pertinent laws of the Republic, e.g., RA 10066 and RA 10086 (the Laws on Heritage and History), PD 1096 (Building Code), RA 7160 (Local Govt. Code), RA 3815 (Revised Penal Code), among others, were contravened and violated.

DEFILED HERITAGE

The demolition of the Old Municipio and Monument of Jose Rizal–Inang Bayan was hastily commenced on November 20, 2020, to clear the ground site for the project. A demolition permit was never presented nor was any notice posted at the subject demolition site. This compelled the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to issue a cease-and-desist order (CDO) on December 11, 2020, to stop both demolition and construction operations to preserve and protect the heritage site against any encroachment, desecration, destruction, and all other breaches.

The CDO also ordered the LGU “to present the Site Development Plan of the project for thorough evaluation and clearance, and re-install the Jose Rizal–Inang Bayan Monument to its original location.”

SITE DEVELOPMENT PLAN AND CLEARANCE. The Site Development Plan of a project is a requirement that needs reglementary evaluation and prior clearance by the NHCP. It is also a requirement in the application for Building Permit where it must be shown “the technical description, boundaries, orientation, and position of proposed non-architectural horizontal structure such as sewerage treatment plant (STP), silos, elevated tanks, towers, fences, etc. building/structure in relation to the lot, existing or proposed access road and driveways and existing public utilities/services. Existing buildings within and adjoining the lot shall be hatched and distances between the proposed and existing buildings shall be indicated.”

The DPWH’s National Building Code Development Office (NBCDO) Memorandum Circular No. 3, Series of 2018 explicitly states that “written clearance for building projects that could affect built heritage shall be obtained as part of the documentary requirements in building permit application.”

Lacking the necessary Site Development Plan and corresponding NHCP clearance, the Building Permit for the project is null and void.

THE MONUMENT. The said Monument is the centerpiece of the Gitnang Bayan heritage zone setting. It is placed axially in front of the prominent Old Municipal Building facing the flagpole and the larger expanse of open space (Juan Sumulong Street) and the original Plaza Libertad (now the covered multi-purpose San Juan Gym and Emergency Hospital).

The Monument has become a focal point and a great landmark of our town. It memorializes Dr. Jose Rizal, the great hero to whom our province is named after, as well as the historic events, places, public servants who served the civil government, and even the war veterans. The Monument deserves to be treated as sacred or hallowed grounds with the same reverence accorded to our Flag. Such historic and nationalistic values are enshrined in RA 10066 and laid down in the NHCP Guidelines on Monuments Honoring National Heroes, Illustrious Filipinos and Other Personages (2012).

But to our utter dismay, the LGU never complied with the requirements. The CDO was callously defied; demolition was consummated to the hilt. Upon on-site investigation on January 21, 2021, the NHCP technical team reaffirmed that the demolition had already been completed, the site leveled to ground zero.

It must be recalled that at first and much earlier, the proponent LGU proudly named the vast Muzon Sports Complex vicinity where a vast tract of 70,000 square meters was available for the project site. However, it was arbitrarily changed and ended up at the small Old Municipio site in the crowded town center. Even though the area was expanded with the inclusion of the adjacent sites of San Juan Gym, Emergency Hospital, and the historical streets of “M.C. Ison” and “Juan Sumulong”, that would provide an aggregate area of only about 4,000 square meters—and what is much to dismay is that they are cultural and historical sites supposed to be protected by law against any damage and incursions.

If the goal is to serve the most number of constituents, especially the poor (sic), they should have chosen among the most suitable, conducive, and accessible locations for the needy like the Muzon property, Floodway-Lupang Arenda resettlement area, near the New Municipio at Club Manila East, or along the stretch of the spacious vicinity of Hi-way 2000. Instead of demolishing, why not just reform the facilities and improve the services of the existing Emergency Hospital? And then, let there be another bigger and better one, i.e., the RPHS, in some other strategic location.

OPEN SPACE IN URBAN DEVELOPMENT. The concept of open space is incorporated throughout the history of architecture and structural engineering. In this modern age, open space has become the policy guidepost in urban planning and development. This development pattern arranges the layout of buildings and physical structures in the compact area of the development site in such ways to reserve a community open space or green space and is protected in perpetuity, by law and regulations.

The primary function of the open space is usability and appropriateness of use. All that considered, the NHCP has issued Board Resolution No.7, series of 2018 “declaring Spanish and American colonial era plazas and public squares as National Historical Sites.” This embraces the heritage zone encompassing our Old Municipio, the Plaza Libertad, and the St. John the Baptist Parish Church—the heart of our town we now call Gitnang Bayan—the ancient community set-up that had been first established and evolved throughout the ages under bajo la campana system in 1591 (Spanish era) and further developed in 1901 (American era) through to the present times.

The said NHCP policy instrument responds in continuum to the issues of landscape, built forms, and cultural realm, and protects the places and sites with cultural, historical, heritage, and other values. At the outset, not even the complacent Church—a registered Important Cultural Property (ICP)—is spared of the devastation now creeping into the entire heritage zone. It is expected and common knowledge that religious practices would be adversely affected. These also have implications on civil actions, community celebrations, events, and festivals traditionally taking place in open spaces.

How we wish that pedestrians can walk with ease and safety on the diminishing sidewalks of the two-lane narrow main road in the poblacion. There manifests a simple but meaningful desire to realize a bicycle lane and pedestrian-friendly pathways along the constricted Rizal Avenue amid sprawls of commercial establishments and workplaces, as well as to maintain and expand the remaining open space of Kalayaan Park-and-Stage at the old public marketplace not only for Zumba dance workout but also for other recreational activities. We also long for the nightmare of the daily worst traffic in the Gitnang Bayan to be gone and we finally realize more breathing space in our constricting urban environs.

Let us be forewarned that hindrance to traditions could lead to cultural degeneration and eventual disintegration. Hence, our sense of who we are as a community, town, and people is in great peril.

WHAT DEVELOPMENT? Taytay is a first-class municipality in the province of Rizal. It is known as the “Woodworks and Garments Capital of the Philippines”.

The National Competitiveness Council’s Competitiveness Index has ranked Taytay “Third in 2015″, “Second in 2019 and 2020”. On the other hand, Taytay placed “Third Richest Municipality in 2015″ as it slightly increased assets to P1.373 billion from P1.301 billion. It held the “2nd or 3rd” rank in the following year.

With only a small area of 38.80 square kilometers, Taytay is now the second-most populous municipality in the country with a population of 386,451 based on the 2020 census of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Montalban with a much wide area of 1,175.80 square kilometers (more than 30 times compared with Taytay!) ranks first with its 443,954 population. So at this point, the municipality of Taytay could now be considered as the most crowded urban center of all the towns in the whole province and country on a per-square-area basis.

Urban development planning is holistic. Aside from the obvious heritage and economic aspects, it must cope and include orderly street systems, water supply, waste disposal, flood control, drainage, and road infrastructure.

It would be both reckless and immoral to build a massive structure of a hospital facility right at the center of our densely populated and congested town center. Such a development pattern and physical set-up of structures would aggravate environmental degradation, the nagging problem of traffic, ease mobility, and accessibility. Moreso, since the designated site is highly-elevated and surrounded by the perineally flooded vicinities, this will only perpetuate the danger of toxic waste disasters of unimaginable proportions especially during the rain-flood season, and much worse in times of epidemic/pandemic when open spaces are all the more needed.

A well-conceived hospital project should have undergone the prudent and diligent process of a prior feasibility study, and public consultation. Proper presentation of its Site Development Plan should have been prioritized and made consistent with the state policies and guidelines on the comprehensive land-use plan (CLUP), disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, growth, and sustainable development vis-a-vis the built heritage, sites, and zones.

The RPHS project wreaks havoc and offends the cultural values, traditions, as well as aesthetics of the heritage zone of the town. Much to our chagrin, this runs afoul to the noble purpose of building a medical facility that is supposedly for the good of the public. It has now inflicted irreparable damage going down the irreversible slippery slope of mal-development. It is an affront to Taytayeño’s morals and sensibilities that would be etched into the psyche of generations.

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