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Biñan City officials are hoping to prevent the loss of one of the city’s famous landmarks - the 200-year-old ancestral home of Jose Rizal's mother - to a resort owner in Bataan by converting the historic property into a local heritage site.
"Ang first step namin under the new law is to declare a property na parang local heritage site na mayroon siyang connection sa isang bayan," said Biñan vice mayor Walfredo Dimaguila.
The plan will not only salvage the structure, but also the history cradled inside its four walls. Once declared a heritage site, the property can no longer be transferred or put to other uses, Dimaguila said in the GMA News report.
Built in the 1800s, the two-storey house with a floor area of about 600 square meters was owned by the family of Jose Alberto Alonzo, the father of Rizal’s mother Teodora Alonzo. The property has been passed down to his heir, Gerardo Alberto.
According to the GMA report, Gerardo is planning to sell the property to Gerry Acuzar, owner of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, a heritage resort in Bagac, Bataan.
Acuzar plans to pluck the house from Biñan and install it in his Bataan resort. Meanwhile, Alberto plans to build a similar house in the same location.
Rizal was about eight years old when he and brother Paciano left Calamba and settled in Biñan, the hometown of their father Francisco Mercado Rizal.
The city government has attempted to negotiate with Gerardo about the plan to declare the mansion a heritage site, but the latter has declined the offer.
"For how long will the local officials be in their posts? Three years? And then the next mayor will go up and do something about it. Maybe make it a prison or something, I don't know," Gerardo explained. "But I am looking for something permanent."
According to Dimaguila, who will remain the vice mayor in the next administration after winning in the May 10 polls, the city government plans to file a petition before the regional trial court of Biñan to hold expropriation proceedings.
"We can get a private property as long as the acquisition of the private property is for a public purpose," the vice mayor said.
But Dr. Rosauro Sta. Maria, president of the United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development, disagreed with Dimaguila.
While he considered the city government's intention to declare the mansion a heritage site laudable, he said acquiring it through court proceedings is not legally feasible.
"Sa totoo lang, iyan ay bawal," Sta. Maria said.
Gerardo shared the same view. "I don't know what they’re talking about. I don't see what law they are citing," he said.
"It is a private property. I have been paying my [real property] taxes religiously and I can do whatever I want with that," Gerardo stressed.
However, Sta. Maria is also opposed to Gerardo's plan to sell off the property. He lamented the ongoing demolition at the mansion to prepare for the transfer of ownership, saying it does not have a city government permit and should be halted. – Mark D. Merueñas/YA, GMANews.TV