Delays in the implementation of the Protection and Management Plan (PMP) could affect the city’s heritage, points out António Conceição Junior, one of the incumbent members of the local Cultural Heritage Committee.
“One of the main issues at stake here is, first of all, the credibility of the institution that is in charge of fulfilling the recommendations of a Management Plan,” he told Business Daily.
The comments come as the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) is wrapping up in Krakow (Poland), set to end July 12.
In the meeting so far, the WHC has adopted a draft regarding Macau’s current state of heritage affairs, in which it criticized the state of conservation of World Heritage properties in the MSAR, as one of 16 other cases presenting ‘serious problems,’ according to a release by the Cultural Affairs Bureau.
UNESCO initially requested that the Macau SAR Government submit the PMP by February 1, 2015. The organization requests it now be submitted by December 1, 2018.
Managing the management
Overall, the WHC report raised issues relating to poor heritage management and the inability of the local government to fulfil previous recommendations delivered by the State Party of China, as well as the Committee itself.
If the authorities want to “maintain a highly responsive and efficient response,” Conceição Junior advocates that the management of heritage “would require a specialized institution that should be separated and equipped with specialists that could propose a management programme and with capability to discuss, educate the population, and negotiate with the various interests in Macau.”
In previous comments to Business Daily, Imon Shams Sharif, head of the Heritage Management Programme at the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT), explained that the local authorities “would try their best not to de-list [the city]” from the World Heritage list, adding however that, if “the main value [of a site] is lost, [UNESCO] can de-list it.”
In such a case, Conceição Júnior believes that “there would be a downgrade in the status of the city,” arguing that it would also represent “an international humiliation of Macau after the city’s candidacy that started in 2001 was accepted in 2005.”
On the waterfront
On the list of concerns raised by UNESCO are future construction projects on the new reclaimed land areas of Zone B and building height restrictions for the projects planned at Fisherman’s Wharf – namely that of the Legendale Hotel.
Noting that he does not have detailed knowledge about that particular case, Conceição Junior suggested that many problems could be “avoided” if there were “clear rules” defined through a “master plan for Macau and islands.”
Another reason for concern raised by UNESCO, which has been appointed by local political representatives, such as the New Macau Association, as well as protection groups formed to pressure the government, such as the League of Guia Lighthouse Protectors, refers to construction projects in the surrounding area of Guia hill.
The main case in point related to a residential building located at 18-20 Calçado do Gaio, a project by San Va Construções e Fomento Predial initially planned to reach 126 metres – Guia Hill is 91 metres high – of which construction was suspended in 2006 due to public pressure.
By executive decision in 2008, the height limit for construction in the area was set at 52.5 metres when the construction had already reached 80 metres.
In reply to Business Daily’s questions, the Cultural Affairs Bureau said that the bureau, ‘through the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, has provided the UNESCO with explanations and, at this stage, has not yet received comments from the UNESCO through the State Administration of Cultural Heritage’ on the matter.
The Cultural Affairs Bureau has spent nearly MOP70 million on the ‘renovation and refurbishment’ heritage projects (both locally and UNESCO-listed) it conducted in 2016, according to information provided by the bureau. The amount was distributed as follows:
Projects with Renovation and refurbishment cost
Treasure of Sacred Art of St. Joseph’s Seminary – MOP7.8 million
Patane Library – MOP26 million
Chong Sai Dispensary (No. 80, Rua das Estalagens) – MOP14 million
Maritime Workshops (Doca D. Carlos I, SW) – MOP22 million
The President of the Macau Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC), Leung Hio Meng, and the head of the Cultural Heritage Department, Leong Wai Man, have been attending the WHC meeting as part of China’s delegation sent by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.