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Public works playing catch-up

The Cultural Affairs Bureau claims to be diligently working to amend heritage preservation problems recently raised by UNESCO’s heritage arm. But hints that progress in urban planning might have saved them the extra pain

Urban Planning in Macau should abide by the Cultural Heritage Protection Law.
The statement was made twice by President of the Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC) Leung Hio Meng, and the Chief of IC’s Cultural Heritage Department, Leong Wai Man, in a press conference held yesterday.
The cultural bureau called the meeting to clarify its position and current preparations for the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC), to be held in Krakow, Poland in July.
It was further aimed at responding to issues raised in a recent report by the WHC, which slammed China, the State Party, and the Macau SAR Government for underperforming in protecting Macau’s Historic Centre.
“The agenda of the coming session of the World Heritage Committee is more concerned about the question of urban planning in Macau. If it [planning] was done, we would not have to worry about matters such as building heights,” stated the President.

“We are serious”
Leung Hio Meng explained that the Cultural Affairs Bureau, like the WHC, is also worried about the overall urban planning situation and the plan for safeguarding the Historic Centre of Macau.
“We share UNESCO’s concerns and we will do our best to protect Macau,” he said.
In response to questions raised by the press, claiming IC’s approach to WHC considerations is “normal” the group downplayed the “graveness” of WHC’s remarks.
“The National State Administration [of Cultural Preservation] says the procedure is normal. It is different from being put ‘in danger’ and we are going to comply with the WHC decision,” he said.
When asked why the Protection and Management Plan (PMP), which should have been delivered in 2015, has not yet been sent to the WHC, the Chief of the Heritage department said that the delays came about due to the elaboration of the new Cultural Heritage Preservation Law, only effective in early 2014.
Mr. Leung further explained that the PMP should be delivered next year.
“We hope to be able to deliver it to WHC by mid-2018,” he stated.

What now?
In order to complement the plan, which the cultural authorities say has been “divided into phases,” the Bureau will conduct a second public consultation.
“The first phase included a public consultation conducted in 2014, of which the results have already been compiled and published in 2015. The second public consultation will take place this year, and WHC has been informed about it,” Ms. Leong explained.
President Leung added that the second phase foresees “the development of the management plan” that will be submitted to WHC in 2018, and that this will require them to “act as soon as possible.”
As for the upcoming WHC meeting in July, Mr. Leung announced that China, acting as the State Party for Macau, has asked the government to provide them with all available information.
He also said that IC sought comments last week from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage – the official China representation within UNESCO – when he and Ms. Leong visited Beijing (from June 4 to 6), and that heritage experts from China would visit Macau to assess the situation.

What is Fisherman’s worth?
Asked about the decision for height limits on construction at the Fisherman’s Wharf site – identified by the WHC in its report – the President of the Cultural Affairs Bureau said that “there is still no final decision” and that they “need to hear the position of experts from the State Administration [of Cultural Heritage] first.”
As for current protection strategies for Penha and Guia Hill in regard to height limitations on constructions in surrounding areas, and in order to protect the visibility of the sites, Ms. Leong said that they had already sent a proposition to China, but were still awaiting a reply.

Cultural and Marine Bureau
Regarding the controversial shipyards case, the IC President clarified that no date had been defined for starting the structural consolidation of the site.
But he added that the government would “soon start the fencing work” to protect the shipyards during the typhoon season.
“As for the listing project [initiative], our intention is very clear,” he concluded.
In the meantime, Business Daily reached out to the President of the Lai Chi Wun Villagers Association, David Pinto Marques, who said that the fencing work had already started this week, having been conducted over “a couple of days at most.”
“I talked to an official from the Marine and Water Bureau who was on the site [yesterday] who told me that they were assembling the bamboo fences to protect the site from typhoons and to ensure the safety of villagers,” he explained.

Sites under scrutiny | WHC 41st session
Both the President of the Cultural Affairs Bureau and the Chief of the Cultural Heritage Department will join the State Party’s delegation as Macau representatives in the WHC meeting in Krakow.
A hundred items, including sites, monuments, and ensembles, will be analysed by the Committee during its 41st session.
Five items on the list are located in China, with Macau housing one of them.

Courtesy of: David Pinto Marques