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Centennial Tower: Patriotic Monument or Tower of Vanity?

November 10, 1995 GMT

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ President Fidel Ramos envisions the steel and concrete spire stabbing into the sky as a monument to a century of Filipino nationhood.

Opponents of the proposed $200 million-plus tower _ complete with revolving restaurant, museum, telecommunications center and office space _ say it is an overpriced ego trip that their poor nation cannot afford.

Some foes also attack the structure as an artistic ``monstrosity,″ and others criticize the planned site.

Ramos proposed the Centennial Tower as a tribute to the June 12, 1898, declaration of independence from Spanish colonial rule by Filipino revolutionaries. It also would be a symbol of the country’s industrial progress, he says.

The tower would rise 389 feet on what is now a skating rinks at Luneta Park, looming behind the monument to national hero Jose Rizal several hundred yards away.

Supporters argue that taxpayers do not need to worry because the cost will be shouldered by private financiers led by a German group.

None of that has impressed opponents, whose ranks are growing.

The latest to join the anti-tower movement is Rep. Milagros Trinidad. She is the niece of former Vice President Salvador Laurel, who heads the Centennial Commission and whose duties would include overseeing construction of the tower if Ramos goes ahead with the project.

Trinidad warns that despite the plan for private financing, the debt-burdened government will guarantee the loans and could get stuck with the bill in the long run.

Ramos, who stresses the matter is still being studied, has the final say because the project would be financed privately, although Congress could cause delays.

A group of senators led by former Senate President Edgardo Angara calls the tower a ``monument of vanity″ for Ramos, who hopes to open the tower at the end of his term in June 1998. Angara’s group also questions whether the real motive for the project is profit for the builders.

Other critics say the tower would desecrate the Luneta, where Rizal was executed by the Spaniards on Dec. 30, 1896.

``The tower has no place in such sacred venue,″ says Chita Gatbonton, a member of a group of artists, architects, historians and painters who organized to stop the tower.

Onib Olmedo, one of the country’s leading painters, says ``very tall towers are no longer seen as architectural wonders.″

Even Imelda Marcos, who was often derided for her ``edifice complex″ for a building binge during her heyday as first lady, opposes the tower.

``The people have nothing to eat and yet they are talking of building monuments,″ said the widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.