04 Mar 2016

President Aquino joins turnover rites for newly restored Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño
(CEBU CITY, Cebu) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday witnessed the turnover of documents from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu following the restoration of the church that was damaged during the earthquake that hit Central Visayas in 2013.The restoration initiative for the Basilica Minore and other heritage sites is part of the government’s Heritage Restoration Program, in which the National Commission for Culture and the Arts coordinates efforts with the NHCP and the National Museum.

The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) provided additional funds to make the restoration efforts more effective.

According to the President, TIEZA provided P5 million to fund pre-restoration efforts while the national government extended P14 million for the actual restoration of the Basilica. Also part of the NHCP’s mandate is to restore the pavilion of Magellan’s Cross by providing P1.3 million.

For the restoration of Fort San Pedro, another Cebu heritage site, the NHCP spent P22 million. The Mactan Shrine was also preserved with a P4.8 million budget.

“Ngayon po, ongoing ang restorasyon natin sa iba pang heritage sites na nasira, dala ng paglindol noong 2013,” the President said in his speech during the turnover ceremony held at the Basilica.

“Inaasahan nga nating matatapos ang lahat ng ito sa susunod na taon. Ang hangad natin dito ay masigurong matatamasa ng susunod na salinlahi itong mga gusaling bahagi ng ating makulay na kasaysayan.”

The Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is the most popular church in Cebu due to the devotion of Filipinos to the Holy Child enshrined in the edifice. Three or four church structures preceded the present Santo Niño church, whose foundations were laid on February 29, 1735. The church was completed in 1739.

The Santo Niño Basilica have withstood earthquakes in the past and was restored and reinforced in 1782 and 1889. More repairs were undertaken in 1964 in preparation for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christianization in the Philippines.

The earthquake that struck Cebu on October 15, 2013 toppled the upper part of the belfry and portions of the church masonry walls.

The restoration of the church by the NHCP included the consolidation of the masonry walls, other structural rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the belfry, as well as the mechanical and chemical cleaning of exterior walls. The project began on June 15 last year and was completed last January 12.

Magellan’s Cross, on the other hand, is housed in an octagonal coral stone kiosk on Plaza Sugbo beside the Santo Niño Basilica. The kiosk, built in the 1800s, protects and enshrines the tindala wood cross put up by Ferdinand Magellan and his men on the island of Cebu on April 21, 1521.

The restoration of Magellan’s Cross began on September 2 last year and was completed last January.

With the restoration of Cebu’s heritage sites, the government expects to boost its tourism sector. PND (as)

Japan International Cooperation Agency chief calls on President Aquino
The Philippines and Japan will continue to collaborate closely as strategic partners in promoting the peace process in Mindanao and in pushing major infrastructure projects to attain inclusive, long-term economic growth and development, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. has said.Secretary Coloma made the statement after Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) President Shinichi Kitaoka paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacañang Palace on Friday.

“He (Dr. Kitaoka) noted the significant progress achieved in crafting the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which has resulted in substantial peace dividends, such as the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD),” the Palace official said.

Coloma said the focal point of the J-BIRD is the five-year Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities Through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation (HARVEST) Project that provides funding and technical support to micro-, small- and medium-scale industries in agriculture, fisheries and related services.

“As of mid-2015, total assistance under J-BIRD reached P6.1 billion. Additionally, the World Bank and JICA have committed to provide up to US$250 million in loan funds to support the HARVEST Project. Total credit assistance is expected to exceed P11.1 billion and employment generation for about 21,700 individuals,” he said.

For his part, President Aquino expressed confidence that a Bangsamoro Basic Law may be enacted within the next two years to sustain the momentum of the peace process, Coloma said.

Kitaoka noted the tremendous progress attained in building multi-stakeholder support for peace in the Bangsamoro on the domestic and international fronts, he added.

Coloma said Kitaoka also signified the Japanese government’s support for the Philippines’ advocacy of upholding the rule of law in the settlement of international maritime disputes while commending President Aquino’s leading role in promoting a consensus among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in support of the primacy of the rule of law.

Meanwhile, the JICA official reiterated the agency’s support for major infrastructure projects in the Philippines, especially the North-South Railway Project North Line from Malolos, Bulacan to Tutuban, Manila, which is the single biggest official development assistance yen loan package from Japan at US$2 billion.

Other major JICA-funded projects are the P7.1-billion Bohol international airport in Panglao that will be completed in December 2017 and the implementation of the roadmap for transport infrastructure development for Metro Manila and Regions III (Central Luzon) and IV-A (Calabarzon).

“Dr. Kitaoka conveyed the Japanese government’s continuing commitment to support the Philippines and reciprocate the country for its ‘wonderful culture of reconciliation’, that has brought the two countries closer together despite the events of World War II,” Coloma said. PND (kt)