A new and bigger Freedom Grandstand (inset) will rise next to the statue of Nicolas Loney on Muelle Loney Street, Iloilo City. Loney was appointed British Vice Consul in Iloilo in 1856. He helped increase sugar production and encouraged improvements at the port of Iloilo. In March 1904, the Municipal Council of Iloilo named the quay along the Iloilo River as Muelle Loney or Loney Waterfront. In March 1981 a statue of him was unveiled at the end of Muelle Loney. JOSELITO VILLASIS

ILOILO City – Two months before this city stages the 2019 Dinagyang Festival, the new Freedom Grandstand on Muelle Loney Street would have been finished, according to City Engineer Roberto Divinagracia.

The winning contractor, F. Gurrea Construction, committed to complete the new grandstand by November this year, said Divinagracia.

A notice to proceed was already issued to the contractor.

The city government allotted P50 million for the new grandstand which would rise on a 2,600-square meter property of Panay Railways Inc. which the city government purchased for P32 million.

Divinagracia also said a demolition permit was already released for the old Freedom Grandstand on JM Basa Street.

He identified the demolition contractor as MicroAsia Builders Corporation.

The demolition may be completed within three months, said Divinagracia though he did not say when it would start.

The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority issued an order suspending the old grandstand’s demolition.

“I don’t know kun ano ang process nila to lift the suspension order pero tanan nga justification na-submit na naton. The (old) Freedom Grandstand is not a heritage site,” said Divinagracia.

He clarified, however, that the construction of the new grandstand would proceed as scheduled.

The new grandstand will have a capacity of some 3,000 people, almost double the size of the old grandstand.

The demolition of the old grandstand was originally scheduled in February this year but the city council passed a resolution seeking a halt to it until the new grandstand has been finished. Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon, son of former senator, congressman and mayor Rodolfo Ganzon, said it had historical significance.

According to Ganzon, the grandstand was a concrete memorial to the Iloilo City Freedom Law or Republic Act 1209 that his father authored in 1955 empowering the people of Iloilo City to elect their own leaders.

Prior to the law’s enactment, officials of Iloilo city were appointed by the President.

Marigold Ganzon Lapascua, sister of the vice mayor, also sought the help of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), claiming the grandstand to be an “important cultural property” (ICP).

NHCP, however, said the grandstand did not meet the requirements to be considered an ICP.

For a structure to be considered or presumed an ICP, it must not be less than 50 years old under Section 5 of Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act).

NHCP also said although the grandstand was built in the 1950s, it was no longer in its original shape due to two major renovations in 1992 and 2003.

The demolition of old grandstand would give way to Sunburst Park’s revival. Over 50 years ago, the park gave way to the construction of the grandstand.

Sunburst Park was named in honor of the American 40th Infantry Division of the same nickname that liberated Iloilo City from the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II./PN

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