Cultural heritage site owner has legal duty of conservation, says IC

The Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC) said yesterday that it is required by law that the owner of a cultural heritage site conserves their protected property at their own expense.

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam told the media yesterday that he agrees with the Commission Against Corruption’s (CCAC) report about Ilha Verde Hill and its neighborhood. He also said he has already ordered the IC to take the CCAC’s comments seriously.

Hours later, the IC held a press conference to brief the media about its work since the publication of the CCAC report earlier this week.

In his opening note, acting director Chan Kai Chon stressed that the bureau will take the report seriously. It will study the suggestions set forth in the report with vigilance. It will also conduct and supervise its work according to the law.

The head of the Cultural Heritage Department Choi Kin Long listed the work the IC had conducted for the Ilha Verde Hill site, including pinpointing construction, surveying and mapping, as well as making records of aged trees on the hill.

The owner of the site, especially that of the monastery on the hill, had not conserved the area properly. Choi said that the bureau sent a letter two years ago to the buildings’ owners regarding the necessary conservation. Survey diagrams were even provided to the owners following their requests.

The 2017 request made by the IC was mainly related to the restoration of the landscape of the hill.

There has not been much progress in the conservation. The owners have, in the previous two years, cited several reasons for deferring their duty to conserve the site.

Deputy Director Leong Wai Man referred to article 39 of the Cultural Heritage Protection Law, which inscribes the scope of authority designated to the IC regarding the inspection, evaluation and conservation of potential or existing cultural heritage sites.

Leong explained the IC had a meeting with the owners yesterday to discuss the conservation work. She said the bureau is going to issue a letter to the owners explaining their duty pursuant to article 39. The article states that if an owner fails to accomplish conservation work within a period deemed appropriate by the IC, the bureau can then lead the project and request the owner to reimburse it.

Considering the previous “request” was made in October 2017, concerns have been raised with the length of the period within which the owner must finish the work of conservation.

“In many cases, owners need time to consult professional architects, surveyors and other consultants before they can actually start their work. Usually the length of the period is around several months,” said the deputy director, adding the exact length of the period will be disclosed to the public soon.

The IC’s work does not conclude with the issuance of the letter triggered by article 39 of the Cultural Heritage Protection Law. The bureau pledged that it would stay in regular communications with the owners.

Overall, the Ilha Verde Hill monastery is in an acceptable condition, but small cracks and flaws from depreciation do exist, the IC added.

Meanwhile, the CCAC also criticized the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) of flaws in its work related to Ilha Verde Hill.

The bureau’s supervisor, Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário said he was not able to answer media inquiries related to the CCAC report. The DSSOPT, on the other hand, made a similar pledge as the IC, promising to fulfill its role according to the law. Staff reporter

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