After several reschedules, the controversial Manila Bay dolomite beach was finally reopened to the public on Independence Day (June 12), following rehabilitation to improve water quality in its proximity. Also unveiled at the Remedios area of the Manila Baywalk in the reopening was a replica of World War II Heritage Cannon, containing transferred gun barrels from different artillery batteries from Corregidor.
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the inclusion of the cannons is meant to “encourage patriotism among the public and to signify that the battle to cleanup Manila Bay is now yet over.”
However, not all are in praise of the project, as prominent figures in historical studies have slammed the government’s move.
For Dr. Ricardo Jose, the country’s foremost scholar on World War II in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific, the transfer of the gun barrels from Corregidor to replicate Fort Drum was a “total distortion of history.” According to Dr. Jose, the transfer stripped the historical artefacts of their context because there were no turrets in Manila Bay.
Meanwhile, former Armed Forces of the Philippines Museum curator Jose Custodio said that the DENR project creates a myth that disregards the historical significance of the guns.
“It is ironic that at a time the country and people are reeling from massive inflation and economic hardship that this wasteful, expensive and yet totally ill-conceived project was undertaken by rank amateurs who know nothing of history and historical preservation,” Custodio said.
In response, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) claimed that there was no historical distortion committed in the transfer of the barrels.
PVAO Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina said that colonial powers improved the Bay’s defenses by adding heavy weaponry on surrounding islands, but few Filipinos were able to “see and appreciate” the historical relics.
“Hopefully, tourists, both local and foreign, would be enticed to visit the islands with their children and see the many other guns and cannons,” Carolina said of the display of the barrels.
Online, concerned citizens questioned why the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) allowed the transfer of the barrels. Under Executive Order No. 58, series of 1954, Corregidor is declared as a national shrine, placing historical relics on the island under the jurisdiction of Corregidor Foundation Inc. and NHCP.
Vice President for Research and Education of the Philippine World War II Foundation Desiree Benipayo also lamented the DENR project and called it an “abomination.” In addition to the transfer, Benipayo also underscored the display’s proximity to the sea as the “sea breeze will eat it in time.”
Basti Evangelista is a news and opinion writer who focuses on Philippine national politics and sectoral issues. His personal advocacy includes press freedom and social justice.
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