By KRISTELA DANIE S. BOO
No matter what other benefits it may give, any improvement that causes harm is not an improvement at all.
The Chinese government-funded construction of the bridge that will soon link Binondo and Intramuros aims to ease traffic congestion and increase commercial activity in the area. However, this development can be considered a threat to the Walled City.
Heritage conservationist groups have expressed their opposition to the planned four-lane, 734-meter bridge, saying that the construction will affect the Aduana Building and the walls of Intramuros due to its old age and soft foundation, as well as the Chamber of Commerce Building and Plaza Mexico.
UNESCO has also warned that the construction of the bridge may result in San Agustin Church and three other churches being delisted from the UNESCO World Heritage (WH) Sites.
The bridge project across the Pasig River, linking the streets of San Fernando in Binondo and Solano in Intramuros, will encroach on the “buffer zone” that UNESCO requires San Agustin Church to maintain as a WH Site.
Ironically, according to a Philippine Daily Inquirer article, only after the Order of St. Augustine formally raised their concern did the cultural agencies National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Intramuros Administration start taking notice.
This will not be the first time that a WH Site risks being delisted because of a construction of a modern edifice. In 2009, the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany was delisted from the UNESCO WH Sites list due to the construction of the Waldschlösschen Bridge.
With the project now in full swing, the “basket handle-type steel arc bridge” will soon be an off and too modern infrastructure linking two historical districts of Manila.
Some would say that it will only affect the landscape, but no one really cares about the vista of the place until it is gone. One will only realize things had gone wrong once it is too late.
This may perhaps show how we really care for our historical landmarks, the remnants of our history. We tend to embrace development with the hopes of feeling the ease and this sometimes leads us to unconsciously neglecting our heritage.
What is the value of modernization if it will abandon the past instead of preserving it?
No new bridge or any structure should be a threat to our history. Modernization is useless if it is an agent of destruction for age-old entities. Modernization should instead be an agent of development in terms of preservation and conservation that does not cause harm.
It has been more than two years since the construction of the bridge was first proposed yet it is only now that serious complaints have been raised. No one questioned China’s funding of the bridge as well.
The Binondo-Intramuros bridge that will soon connect the world’s oldest Chinatown and the Walled City should complement the heritage and cultural significance of the landscape and should not become a landmark that shows how our leaders are slowly caving in to the powers of a foreign land.