The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) received a pledge of support for the preservation of historic Intramuros from the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) Mission.
The Global Heritage Fund Mission is a distinguished non-profit conservation group that provides assistance to developing countries in preserving their cultural heritage sites.
Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano and GHF International Conservation Director John Hurd signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday at the Ilustrados Restaurant in Intramuros to formally commence the working partnership.
“As one of the country’s significant cultural heritage icons, Intramuros needs a long-term and systematic preservation program to protect its centuries-old structures and collections.
“The assistance of the respected Global Heritage Fund enables both the DOT and Intramuros Administration to look into adopting an internationally recognized conservation methodology in preserving the walled city,” said Durano.
Hurd said the GHF will send its technical team in the following months for a feasibility study of the Walled City.
Hurd was conservation consultant to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and is currently the president of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Advisory Committee, an advisory body the the UNESCO World Heritage.
“Intramuros has an enormous international potential with its historical wealth. We hope to keep the historical authenticity within its walls with the help of your country’s academe, professionals, tourism stakeholders and the community in the area,” said Hurd.
Durano added that the group’s efforts are in line with the country’s tourism vision.
“In developing a destination, we seek first what is intrinsic and beneficial to its surrounding community. What the communities can appreciate, the tourists will surely be able to enjoy,” he said.
Working with international specialists in archaeological conservation and community development, the GHF is internationally renowned for its intensive conservation methodology called Preservation by Design.
This approach includes site management, planning, scientific conservation and community development of areas deemed as endangered heritage sites.
Dennis Normandy, chairman of the San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee (SFMSCC), the group that served as Manila’s liaison to the GHF, said that they are looking into replicating the success of the Colonial Williamsburg Town in the state of Virginia for Intramuros.
“We hope to see Intramuros one day as a living history, much like the town of Colonial Williamsburg where history was recreated not only by its structures but by real people who are living out the 18th century period,” said Normandy.
Colonial Williamsburg is a popular tourist site in Virginia where trade, commerce and community living are recreated daily amid restored original structures such as buildings, houses, and shops spread out in 301 acres of land.
The GHF has been involved in projects in many countries like China, India, Peru, Laos and Libya. One of its acclaimed projects is the restoration of the Ancient Town of Lijiang in China.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lijiang suffered from overdevelopment prompting GHF to initiate a Master Conservation and Site Management Plan and an innovative Preservation Incentive Fund.
Together with the Lijiang Ancient Town Management Committee, UNESCO World Heritage Centre Asia Pacific and Shanghai Tong Ji University’s Urban Planning and Design Institute, the GHF managed to restore Lijiang’s 200 ancient structures and create a sustainable tourism livelihood for the Naxi tribal community living in the area.
The success of the restoration of Lijiang Ancient Town was commended by the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Merit.
The expertise of the GHF is undoubtedly needed in Intramuros, according to Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque, Jr., Tourism Planning and Promotion.
“Heritage site preservation has been a challenge for countries like ours which have modest resources. With environmental effects, climate changes, and other causes beyond our control, our heritage sites do need all the support specially from experts like the GHF,” said Jarque.
Also present during the MOU signing were Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Baby Villegas representing Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim; Intramuros Administrator Anna Maria Harper and Consul-General to San Francisco Marciano Paynor.
The formal signing was also held in conjunction with the Business and Cultural Mission of the SFMSCC, which served as the liaison of the GHF to the country.
An organization created in April 1961 under the Office of the Mayor of San Francisco, the SFMSCC’s membership includes public officials, business leaders, professionals, educators, authors, artists and other individuals or proven achievement who have interest in or ties to the Philippines.
Its basic mandate is to serve as the preeminent cultural and economic link between San Francisco and Manila. It has organized business and cultural missions to the Philippines in the past years. (PNA)