Report of the Technical Working Group for the General Santos City Museum
Status of the Construction of the General Santos City Museum
As a backdrop, the Sanggunian passed Ordinance No. 01, series of 2011 that designated the Old City Hall within the government center of the City of General Santos as the Site of General Santos City Museum. In pursuit of the establishment of the city museum, the Sanggunian also passed Resolution No. 274, series of 2016, recommending the approval of the plans and specifications of the proposed renovation of Old City Hall Building for the museum, with initial project cost of P7,000,000.00. The project begun on 20 January 2017 and has undergone a series of suspensions and time extension, in part, due to clearing operation and removal of office equipment and files, and mainly, due to our desire to conserve the façade of the former City Hall Building. As of to date, implementation of the project is partly suspended as we cautiously do as much as necessary to care for whatever is left of the old building to make it useable and its cultural significance is conserved.
In the course of demolition and conservation of some parts of the old City Hall Building, the City Engineering Office noted the following:
- The footings and columns for the proposed building also lie the building line of the existing building as can be seen in the approved plans;
- It was not anticipated that the structural frameworks and elements of the existing building was not in accordance with acceptable construction standards, such as, the placement of planted concrete columns on top of a wooden beam/girt, the cladding of a wooden post concrete make it appear like a conventionally designed reinforced concrete column;
- There was no suitable bedding for the existing floors, e.g., gravel bedding of compacted earth fill. Instead, it was found out that underneath the floor slab was soft sand;
- The architectural design called for the installation of synthetic stones to the façade which would create additional loads to an already brittle, porous masonry concrete hollow block wall;
- The vertical and horizontal steel bars used for the masonry wall were of substandard size; and
- Groundwater was already present at 1.2 meter below the existing grand elevation, thus, compromising the foundation of the structure.
We also procured the opinion of an expert about the stability of the remaining columns standing at the project site, thus, can be useable for the museum. The Certificate of Structural Stability dated 06 November 2017 issued by an independent Structural Engineer states that “the remaining columns standing at the project site are no longer stable for use as part of the structural framing system of the proposed 2-Storey Museum x x x due to cracks and minimal number of bar requirements.”
It may seem to us that the former City Hall Building is an important cultural property protected by law unless declared otherwise by pertinent cultural agency as provided for by Republic Act No. 10066. However, our investigation and pieces of evidence reveal otherwise. At the very same site where the old City Hall Building is located previously stood a wooden Municipal Hall of Buayan, Cotabato established in 1949 and the subject concrete structure that used to be the old City Hall Building of General Santos was just constructed in 1968, or a less than 50 years old structure.
To address the question at hand why the construction of museum stalled for several months – this is the answer: the Technical Working Group (TWG) sought for ways to conserve the front façade of the old City Hall Building.
For quite some time now, the TWG has been looking for ways to integrate the remaining façade of the building, which has the attached historic marker, into the overall design of the proposed museum building because we wanted to preserve a valuable remnant of such building that witnessed the development of General Santos City.
But alas, as per advice of our expert engineers, they have not recommended the preservation of the front façade as this remaining structure poses a construction hazard, and thus, a safety concern.
Assistant City Engineer Emerald Signar of the City Engineering Office explained that any new structure must be able to withstand earthquakes. If the remaining façade would remain standing beside a new structure in the place of the Old City Hall Building, the façade, with its unstable foundation, might fall towards the New City Hall Building or fall towards the new Museum. This is due to the difference in the foundation of the remaining façade and the new building. The two different structures will sway in different and unpredictable directions and damage the two proximate structures, thus, our trusted engineers cannot assure the complete safety of the museum structure.
Our key partners from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines have also expressed the same view with the concerned structure after the conduct of ocular inspection of the site on 12 September 2017. We are yet to receive their official communication on this regard. (As of posting, November 29, 2017.)
And thus, the TWG has now opted not to conserve the façade of the old City Hall Building. Our committed partners from the City Engineer’s Office have continued to stress out the importance of safety in the next phases of the construction.
It is due to this safety concern that the TWG has deemed that the remaining façade be felled. The continued use of the structure may cause safety risks that can cost us not just millions of pesos worth of building repairs in the succeeding years, but may also incur undue, incalculable costs in both the city’s beloved heritage and the lives of the people. As public servants of the local government, due diligence demands us to avoid these risks and protect both the tangible and intangible treasures of our city and uplift the public welfare.
It is truly sad to see the Old City Hall Building go. However, we in the TWG still value the importance of this structure.
That is why during the entire renovation process, we have secured remnants of the former structure – wood, bricks, cement, marker –which we plan to be included as exhibits in the museum, or reused in the interior design of the museum, a conservation technique we have seen utilized by the Province of Davao Oriental in the Mt. Hamiguitan Natural Science Museum. The TWG will be seeking consultation with our UST Museum partners on making a creative way to incorporate the collected relics of the old City Hall Building.
But let us be reminded how historic the current location of the structure is for the people of General Santos City. The first structure that stood there was the Municipal Hall of Buayan, Cotabato, built in 1949. The second structure was the City Hall of General Santos, built in 1968. Both historic for being the center of governance for the people of General Santos City.
The third structure that will occupy such site is the vault that will shelter our city’s beloved memories: the General Santos City Museum.
Sgd. SHIRLYN L. BAŇAS-NOGRALES
City Vice-Mayor & Chair
General Santos Museum TWG
Sgd. HON. RONNEL C. RIVERA
City of General Santos