MANILA, Philippines - Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle announced yesterday the temporary closure of the Manila Cathedral for at least a year to give way to renovation to correct some structural defects.
Fearing that it might not be able to withstand a strong earthquake, Tagle said that the 54-year-old Cathedral would be closed for about a year for repairs.
Tagle said they estimate the cost of repairs to reach P50 million.
He said the Manila Basilica Foundation is one of the groups that have pledged to help raise funds for the renovation project.
Tagle, who has been the Archbishop of Manila for only two months, admitted that the Cathedral that is also called the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica and Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, has “structural concerns.”
He said the study presented to him showed that there were structural concerns and repairs are needed immediately to preserve and ensure the safety of the building.
Church officials cited the effects of the strong 6.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Negros Oriental last Feb. 6 that showed the urgent need to close the Manila Cathedral to the public.
The Cathedral has been closed since Feb. 7.
He added that repairs would start immediately.
The closure of the Cathedral affected some 200 couples that have made reservations for weddings until March next year.
Tagle said they have already formed a team called the “Wedding Task Force” that would advise and assist the couples in making reservations in other churches.
There is still no decision on what to do to the crypt, where the remains of late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin and three other cardinals are laid.
Fr. Carlos Reyes, a civil engineering graduate of the University of the Philippines, said that there was no need to demolish the basilica but it has to be closed to the public because it is no longer structurally sound.
He said that the present state of the Cathedral does not conform to the 2010 edition of the National Structural Code of the Philippines (NSCP).
Reyes said the firm Angel Lazaro and Associates International (ALAI), which the Manila Cathedral administration commissioned to conduct a detailed study of its structural integrity, had reported that one of the problems was the presence of cracks in the building.
“The reports detail the failure of some critically important structural members like columns and beams, to comply with the standards set by the NSCP 2010 edition. Such failures indicate conditions that render the structure as not safe,” Reyes added.
Another finding was that the Cathedral was sitting on soft soil. Grouting cement should be placed on the soil to avoid liquefaction, which occurs when the soil turns to liquid and becomes almost like quicksand that could happen during an earthquake.
In studying the condition of the structure, the engineers bored four holes near the four corners of the Cathedral and discovered that two of the holes have potential liquefaction material.
They also need to strengthen the super structure during the retrofitting.
Tagle said that they would also look into the structural conditions of the other churches under the
Archdiocese of Manila and might even give a crash course to their priests on how to detect defects in their churches.