The to-be-enacted cultural heritage law and urban planning law will be independent from, compatible with and supplementary to each other, the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Cheong U told the Legislative Assembly (AL) yesterday.
In an introduction of the Cultural Heritage Conservation bill submitted to the AL, Cheong said the two much anticipated laws are of equal status and complementary to each other: “many people have a misconception that the (would-be) Cultural Heritage Conservation law is a chapter or an article under the Urban Planning law, the truth is that they are independent from each other and supplementary to each other.”
“One of them might be enacted sooner than the other but there is no subordinate or superior role between them. Instead they have their own focus and will serve to fill some voids that the other doesn’t cover.”
He said the Cultural Heritage Conservation bill was partly based on current laws for cultural properties, with some new elements introduced to meet new needs such as; covering tangible and intangible heritages, and inclusion of the conservation of intangible heritage and movable heritage into the new law’s scope, in addition to immovable ones already covered by existing laws.
Most of the 12 lawmakers who spoke during the plenary session expressed support of the bill, and questions were raised mainly of the role of the decision-making for the Cultural Heritage Committee, and the level of consistency of the bill with the Urban Planning initiative that is now undergoing public consultation. He said the government hoped to have the Cultural Heritage Conservation law enacted within 2013, but even if there’s any delay on it, or the Urban Planning law, there would not be any problem or conflicting cases between the two.
In addition to assuring compatibility between the two laws, the Secretary also reassured the legislators that the Committee would be constructed of professionals and experts in the relevant fields, and from different backgrounds and all walks of society to make sure it has diverse representativeness and legitimacy.
Lawmaker Chan Wai Chi also urged the government to think of, what he called, “the vested interest group”, who might try to profit from the conservation initiative by the heritage they have: “sometime ago we visited the Hengqing new development zone and saw people planting a lot of trees, and we learned later that they were planted so that when the government reclaimed the lands they would get more compensation because each tree counts for a fixed amount.”
Lau Veng Seng and Ho Ion San also raised questions of how the government will balance heritage conservation with land resources, or the interests of the real estate developers, and more broadly speaking, the priority between economic development and cultural conservation. Cheong U said “priority is given to the law” and the government would take actions in accordance with the law.
Au Kam San, on the other hand, asked if the bill included a new list of the cultural heritage sites to be conserved. Cheong said the bill uses the existing list of heritage sites, but after it comes into force as a new law, the government will have a complete review and update of the list.
José Pereira Coutinho asked if the bill included conservation of historical documents, many of them are kept by government departments but might be destroyed or lost in the long run if proper conservation isn’t in place. Cheong said the authority has already started work to review, compile and analyze these files and planning legislature to further protect these historical items.
Cheong U also said the Cultural Affairs Bureau will have a larger work burden and more pressure in the new heritage conservation initiative, and he asked for public support and the understanding of the Bureau, and he would not rule out the possibility of additional human resources for the Bureau.
-by Sum Choi, Macau Daily Times