The President of the Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC), Leung Hio Ming, claimed that the bureau is committed to submitting two heritage-related plans to the World Heritage Committee (WHC) by December 1, 2018.
“We promise that before the end of next year, we will deliver the Protection Management Plan [PMP] as well as the report on the state of heritage conservation in Macau to UNESCO,” the President stressed.
Leung was speaking during a press conference organized by the IC to discuss details about Macau’s participation in the 41st session of the WHC, held in Krakow, Poland from July 2 to 12.
During the WHC session, the draft report the Committee had published on May 22, in which it raised ‘serious’ concerns about the state of heritage conservation in the Macau SAR, was adopted without discussion.
The acting head of the Division for Research and Planning of the cultural bureau, Sou Kin Meng, clarified that Macau’s case was considered during sub-session “B,” which he explained engages and rules on World Heritage sites of which the “situation is less serious.”
On the list of remarks previously issued and subsequently adopted by WHC, the main concerns include future construction work in the new urban zones – mainly in Zone B – and height restrictions for construction projects planned for Fisherman’s Wharf, namely, Macau Legend Development’s project for Hotel Legendale.
Wong Iat Cheong, acting head of the Department of Cultural Heritage, added that the WHC is also expecting to receive details about the city’s Master Plan from MSAR authorities.
He further explained that: “the Committee has not defined a fixed date for the delivery of projects for the Master Plan and the new urban zones,” but added that announcements on the Master Plan for Macau might yet take “another three to five years” to materialize.
Protection Management Plan
According to details provided by the IC President, preparation work for the Protection Management Plan (PMP) started in 2013, followed by a public consultation in 2014, which culminated in the ‘Framework for the Safeguard and Management Plan of Macau’s Historic Centre.’
Those steps were developed in view of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the inscription of the Historic Centre of Macau as World Heritage in 2015, and precisely to function as the basis for the PMP, which WHC initially requested be submitted by February 1, 2015.
Leung explained that delays have followed because the cultural bureau “only concluded its report in July 2015, causing IC to miss [the WHC] deadline.”
Leung further acknowledged that there was a “failure or lapse” on the part of the bureau “in not having completed the report in 2015.”
While claiming they should improve their “working process,” he insisted the IC “is not holding back on efforts and work” to meet the deadlines and demands at its end.
The other end
According to Wong, Macau’s economic development requires the IC to pay close attention to urban planning matters.
In some cases, as the city’s recent history shows, this has created pressure on heritage management and safeguarding, at times putting the IC and the Land, Public Works, and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) at odds.
Arguably, the most contentious case to date concerns a series of construction projects in the surrounding area of Guia hill, harking back to 2006, that had been approved under the previous Chief Executive, Edmund Ho Hau Wah.
The plans for the construction of Hotel Legendale at Fisherman’s Wharf – of which the initial height proposed by the company, Macau Legend, is set at 90 metres – raises a similar problem.
The President of the cultural bureau explained that the IC has already communicated its opinion to the DSSOPT on the matter, and reiterated its previous recommendation of keeping a 60-metre cap for the area.
Addressing the question, the acting head of the Department of Cultural Heritage, claimed that because the “urban planning committee has not yet announced a decision in regards to the height limits [for the area], the bureau cannot talk about it.”
According to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Law – finalized in 2013 and enacted in early 2014 – when construction work of considerable dimension risks jeopardizing the preservation of heritage sites, the IC should be consulted and its opinions and recommendations are binding (article 44).
The principle also applies to the development of urban plans, stating that such plans, ‘regardless of their nature, should comply with the dispositions of the current law in regards to the safeguarding of heritage,’ the law reads (article 43).