Resettlement for poor instead of bridges -- Councilor Ang

December 04, 2018

Various groups advocating conservation of the country’s heritage continue drumming up support to their objection to the proposed construction of a multi-milllion Filipino-Chinese ‘friendship bridge.’

These groups, among them the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Philippines, the Heritage Conservation Society and the Advocates for Heritage Preservation cite numerous valid reasons for objecting.

Their points were bolstered after very recently, their ranks were joined in by Manila’s veteran Councilor Bernardito ‘Bernie’ Ang, who had been an alderman in the city’s third district for a combined period of about two decades, at the very least. The third district covers the areas of Quiapo, Sta. Cruz, San Nicolas and Binondo, which, as we all know, includes in its jurisdiction the country’s Chinatown area.

The very outspoken Coun. Ang, who happens to be one of the closest to President Rodrigo Duterte, said he knows how the President puts on top of his government agenda and personal priorities the welfare of the country’s poor sector members and plucking them out of poverty.

Given the huge amount intended for the yet-to-be-constructed bridges, Coun. Ang said the money could be put to better use via programs that would help uplift the lives of people living in the slums of Chinatown.

He said that in the area of San Nicolas alone and the riverbanks in the third district, there are thousands living in utter poverty and who are in dire need of resettlement.

Ang expressed certainty that helping the poor residents of Binondo will definitely give more meaning to the intention for which the Chinese government gave funds to the country and will be in complete accordance to President Duterte’s pro-poor agenda.

The varied reactions came when the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) announced the construction beginning this year of two bridges worth $75 million, which are reportedly to be fully funded by the Chinese government.

Well, being an authority on the matter of the long standing relations of the Philippines with China, Councilor Ang, a true-blue Chinese-Filipino, said that for starters, there are already a lot of structures that are in place, all aimed at signifying and cementing friendly relations between Chinese and Filipinos.

He pointed out that in the Chinatown area alone, there is a huge, colored, beautiful ‘Chinese-Filipino Friendship Bridge’ arch at the foot of Jones Bridge which serves as the opening gate of Chinatown.  The imposing structure and elaborate artwork cannot be missed by anyone who enters Chinatown.

Once inside Chinatown, there is the  ‘Chinese-Filipino Friendship Bridge’ right in the heart of Ongpin Street. Another friendship arch can be found facing the Sta. Cruz Church which also leads to the Chinatown area for pedestrians. For motorists, however, it serves as the exit point.

According to reports, the first of the two Chinese-funded bridge will connect the Binondo and Intramuros districts in Manila, while the other will replace the existing bridge connecting Mandaluyong and Rockwell area in Makati.

Registering strong objection to the said plans, heritage conservationist groups said a pedestrian bridge will do in lieu of the bridges, even as they also expressed serious concerns that the construction of the proposed Binondo-Intramuros Bridge will likely affect the Aduana Building in Intramuros due to its soft foundation as well as the Chamber of Commerce Building and Plaza Mexico.

They also said the proposed bridges will cover the Estero de Binondo while the Puente de San Fernando will have to be demolished to give way for the construction of the said bridges.

An alarming point raised is that UNESCO might raise concerns to the proposed bridge and threaten the bid of the whole Intramuros area to become a World Heritage Site. It said that the ramps of the proposed bridge will affect the buffer zone of the San Agustin Church and Monastery, a World Heritage Site.

For its part, the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands has opposed the planned bridge citing heritage and pollution concerns and proposed instead to expand the Del Pan and Jones Bridges.

Well apparently, no consultations were made on the matter, but I guess it’s never too late for that, if those behind the proposed bridges really intend to put the Chinese donated funds to better use, as what Coun. Ang had said.

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