San Sebastian Basilica in Manila’s Quiapo district. (Photo supplied)

By Joseph Peter Calleja

Jan 14 2021

Petition to protect San Sebastian Basilica from development threat gets 400,000 signatures in a matter of days

An online petition launched by a church group in Manila Archdiocese to save a landmark church in the Philippine capital has garnered 400,000 signatures in only two days, organizers say.  

The petition on, started on Jan. 11, calls on authorities to halt the construction of a 31-story condominium that the group says could threaten the architectural and structural integrity of San Sebastian Basilica in Manila’s Quiapo district.

The construction violates Manila’s zoning laws and the law that protects national heritage, according to the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation.

“Four hundred thousand signatures in time for the 400th year anniversary of the very first San Sebastian church. Join us and our partners to raise awareness about San Sebastian and why it must be protected, ” the foundation said on social media on Jan. 13.

San Sebastian Basilica is considered the last standing neo-Gothic structure and the only all-metal church in the Philippines.

It was completed in 1891 and was designated a national historical landmark in 1973 and as a national cultural treasure in 2011.

The foundation said online support was necessary to make its voice “bigger” for government authorities to listen to their advocacy to stop the construction of the condominium.

The foundation’s campaign has been backed by other groups including a residents’ organization called Neighborhood Along Bautista Street, which has conducted a door-to-door campaign to gather grassroots support from people living in the area.

The group also believed the condominium violated zoning and heritage laws.

“There is a need to highlight a bigger, alarming concern behind the construction of a condominium which will mar the sightline of San Sebastian Basilica and that these unregulated constructions … violate heritage and zoning laws,” the group told reporters.

A Philippine historic preservation society likewise expressed support on social media calling for the public to fight for the basilica, which has been recommended for listing as a UNESCO world heritage site.

“San Sebastian Basilica and its surrounding neighborhood are worthy of protection and preservation. The revitalization of the area should be based on the conservation of its tangible and intangible heritage,” the Bakas Pilipinas preservation society said in a statement.

Students of Augustinian-run San Sebastian College also wrote to the country’s historical commission calling on it to ask the condo developers to produce building permits and requirements.

“In case of non-compliance of the realty corporation, may we request that the conditional clearance [or permit] given … be withdrawn,” they wrote.UCANews