Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Tuesday delivered a privilege speech urging Congress to support the indigenous peoples (IP) of Banaue, Ifugao in their struggle to stop the construction of a seven-storey parking facility that threatens the cultural heritage and welfare of the community.
In a privileged speech delivered on Tuesday at the Plenary Hall of the House of Representatives, Gutierrez said the project “threatens to undermine the preservation and protection of their (IP) ethnic and cultural heritage.”
“Dubbed as the Torre de Banaue, the proposed parking building will soon rise right at the heart of Banaue’s long established cultural and public plaza where communal activities, cultural events and traditional festivities are traditionally held,” he said.
He added that the town area was the venue, for many years, of the traditional celebration of Imbayah or Urpih festivals. The activities are held to help sustain, develop and celebrate the cultural identity of the indigenous people.
“More than losing this cultural site, the proposed building is also endangering the safety and health of the longtime residents living around it while plunging the community to a massive debt burden,” said Gutierrez.
The P55-million seven-level parking facility is reportedly financed by a loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines that was authorized by the Municipal Council in 2014. The payment guarantee used for the loan was the town’s Internal Revenue Allotment.
It was in July this year that petitioners sought a court injunction to stop the construction. The court granted a 72-hour Temporary Restraining Order and petitioners have submitted another petition seeking an extension.
Gutierrez further said the health of the residents living in the area would be at risk due to constant exposure to vehicles emitting carbon monoxide, particularly children and pregnant women.
“We must strive for development that is inclusive, humane, and respectful of the rights, culture, and needs of local communities, and that is mindful of the importance of honoring our shared history and heritage,” he added.