“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Karl Marx
By Alex P. Vidal
WE are worried that the incessant and continuous pressures applied on contractors to finish the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings might result in another construction catastrophe.
The Manila film center tragedy is still fresh on our mind.
Because of pressures to finish the project before the international film festival hosted by Manila on January 18, 1981, construction of the $25-million building was expedited when delays hampered the project.
Delays have also been experienced in the ICC project with no less than APEC National Organizing Committee (NOC) head, Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., expressing concern during a visit in Iloilo City February 24.
“Until it is built, it is a concern. Once it is finish, the concern is gone,” Paynor announced shortly after being informed that the main venue of the meetings is still being constructed.
Iloilo City will host two APEC ministerial meetings in September and October.
We understand Paynor’s concern but we need to have faith in the capability of the contractors to beat the deadline without sacrificing quality.
In the ill-fated Manila film center, the project required 4,000 workers as the deadline drew nearer.
Under pressure, they worked in three shifts, around the clock.
Tragedy struck when the upper scaffold collapsed, sending workers falling into wet cement at 3’oclock in the morning on November 17.
Some of them were impaled on upright steel bars, according to witnesses whose testimonies were not included in the newspapers that carried the news.
Media was under control during Martial Law.
Then First Lady Imelda Marcos was immediately informed about the tragedy and was told the recovery of the bodies would take a lot of time.
As many as 169 bodies were allegedly covered with cement when Mrs. Marcos ordered the construction to continue as planned so as not to incur further delays.
Some of those who fell into the cement may have been buried alive, critics of the Marcos dictatorship claimed.
We asked Mrs. Marcos about this incident when she campaigned for president in 1992 and she called the story as a “blatant lie.”
She told us there was only a single casualty and that enemies of the Marcoses “bloated” the figure “out of malice and out of spite.”
We read the news in the Daily Express (we had a daily copy in the house) and the article did not mention the death of more than one worker.
Independent chronicler of historical events, Lisa Waller Rogers, claimed that “the full story has never been told, as news crews, rescuers, and ambulance teams were barred from the scene for nine full hours, while the government, under martial law, prepared its official version of events, censoring all news and silencing all witnesses.”
Mrs. Marcos, Rogers said, wanted Manila to rival Cannes as a world film capital. She described the project as “grandiose and expensive; the building on Manila Bay was designed to look like the Parthenon.”
Hilmarc’s Construction also bagged the second phase of the 3,700-seater convention only two weeks ago.
The Small and Medium Enterprise meeting is from Sept. 21 to 25 while the High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and the Blue Economy is from Sept. 28 to Oct. 6.
Like the international film festival that the Manila film center hosted in 1981, Ilonggos are also excited to host part of the APEC meetings this year barring unforeseen construction and political circumstances.