MANILA—The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a measure which mandates the conservation of “Gabaldon School Buildings” nationwide as a significant part of Filipino heritage.
The lower chamber approved House Bill 5577 with 221 votes on the affirmative, zero negative, and no abstention.
The measure seeks to rehabilitate and repair the Gabaldon schoolhouses across the country to preserve their cultural, historical, and social significance, as well as address the need for more educational facilities.
Based on Department of Education (DepEd) data, there are 1,446 Gabaldon heritage school buildings all over the country.
These heritage school buildings, many of which are now over a hundred years old, play a significant part in history of Philippine education as they brought forth the country’s public education system.
The Gabaldon school buildings were named after the late lawmaker Isauro Gabaldon, who authored Republic Act 1801, which appropriated PHP1 million for the construction of school buildings in every municipality in the country.
Under the bill, the DepEd will serve as the lead agency in implementing a program for the identification and conservation of school buildings nationwide.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), and the National Museum (NM) will also coordinate with the DepEd in its conservation efforts.
Furthermore, the DepEd shall make an inventory of all Gabaldon school buildings, whether fully functional or condemned, in all public elementary and secondary schools to determine the physical status of each structure.
Local government units that have Gabaldon school buildings under their jurisdiction shall likewise adopt measures for the protection and conservation of these structures and shall provide the DepEd with the necessary assistance in the implementation of any conservation project.
HB 5577 prohibits any modification, alteration, destruction, demolition, or relocation of Gabaldon school buildings.
However, any modification or alteration to the original architectural design of Gabaldon school buildings may be allowed in public schools where the need to construct new school buildings is a priority in anticipation of the increase in student population.
Modification for such purpose must be subject to the issuance of a permit from the NCCA.
Any person who shall cause the unauthorized modification, alteration, destruction, demolition, or relocation of the Gabaldon school buildings shall be meted a fine of not less than PHP200,000 or imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years, or both, upon the discretion of the Court, and shall likewise pay for the conservation of the structure.