DepEd apologizes over MacArthur HQ restoration lapses

DAGUPAN CITY — The Department of Education (DepEd) on Friday apologized to the city government following an uproar over the recent restoration of the former headquarters of Gen. Douglas MacArthur (old Home Economics building) inside the West Central Elementary School 1 (WCES1) here.

“Our apologies to the officials and citizens of Dagupan City for the lapses/errors in the initial implementation of the restoration project of West Central Elementary School 1 Home Economics “MacArthur” Building that have been done resulting to the uproar, anxiety, inconvenience and/or frustration of our kababayans,” Education Undersecretary Alain del Pascua said in a letter and updated report dated September 13.

The last part of the report under the Long-term Guidance read: “Lessons learned in this issue will be incorporated in the final draft of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 11194 titled ‘Gabaldon School Buildings Conservation Act’ signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on January 18, 2019. The IRR will soon be signed by the DepEd, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), and other national government agencies in the next few weeks.”

“Rest assured that DepEd and myself are strongly committed to the restoration and conservation of Gabaldon School Buildings and other Heritage Builts. DepEd has so far repaired/restored about 337 Gabaldon school buildings, 284 of these were undertaken by this present administration,” Pascua said in the report.

The DepEd initially assessed the structure in 2018 in response to the request of Pangasinan fourth district Rep. Christopher de Venecia for the rehabilitation of the Home Economics building, as stated in the report.

“The wooden posts, beams, girders, floors, trusses, and purlins also showed severe termite infestation, thus the need for immediate replacement so as not to endanger the safety of the students and the public in general. The contractor provided a perimeter covering to ensure student safety during the course of construction,” the report read.

”The restoration work is set for 120 days; and that the restored historic building once completed will serve as library, multipurpose room, and museum commemorating the visit and stay of Gen. Douglas MacArthur,” it added.

The DepEd report said based on the suggestions of the NHCP, the following are the revised construction methodology agreed upon: Documentation of the building, tagging of the old wooden parts, careful dismantling of the wooden parts for reuse, clearing of all termite-infested wooden parts, inventory of wood dismantled and repurposed, replacement of all damaged wooden parts including windows, doors, and ceiling, faithful reconstruction of the building based on archival and actual building layout and details as mandated by the provision of the Heritage Act Republic Act (RA) 10066 and the recently passed RA 11194 or the Gabaldon Conservation Act.

The two-story wooden structure served as headquarters of MacArthur during his short stay here before World War II ended.

Earlier this week, Mayor Marc Brian Lim directed the City Engineering Office to stop the restoration pending submission of the report from DepEd central office on the matter as the city government did not receive any notice regarding the project.

“For the time being, we issued a stop order through the engineering office, and I am trying to know the scope of the project. But to be very clear and transparent, this is a DepEd project and not the city’s,” Lim said Tuesday.

The Jayceekens, a group of former and retired members of Jaycees or Junior Chamber International, majority of whom are residents of Dagupan, appeared at the question hour of the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod here, where they expressed their frustration over the appearance of the historical site.

Meanwhile, Rex Catubig of the Jayceekens said on his Facebook account: “The Jayceekens and all concerned Dagupenos scored a moral victory when the DepEd through its honorable undersecretary issued a public apology and owned up to the remiss of its staff in handling the restoration of the historic West Central Elementary School’s Gabaldon-Home Economics building. Consequently, it shall implement corrective measures to address the concerns raised.”  Liwayway Yparraguirre / PNA –