Cultural property law has art world up in arms

First of two parts

AN UPROAR erupted recently in the local art world over a law setting limits on ownership of works considered “Important Cultural Property” (ICP).

While the implementing rules of Republic Act 10066 — also known as the National Cultural Heritage Act and signed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2010 — still haven’t been approved, collectors are already thinking of unloading works by Masters and National Artists rather than be “harassed” by the government.

“The Heritage Act infringes on private property, both moveables and immovables, by effectively limiting the owner’s liberty to dispose of the property as he wishes,” said art critic, historian and author Ramon Villegas, who moderated a forum on the issue last May 21.

Article 3, Section 11 of the law states that no ICP shall be “sold, resold, or taken out of the country without first securing clearance from the cultural agency concerned.”

“In case the property shall be taken out of country,” it continues, “it shall solely be for the purpose of scientific scrutiny or exhibit.”

“The Heritage Act says that ‘private collectors and owners of cultural property shall not be divested of their possession and ownership,’” Mr. Villegas said, “but the law, in fact, places limitations on the ownership of such property.”

Trixie Angeles, legal counsel of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), disagreed and said that there was no reason to panic since property owners may petition the appropriate agency to remove the presumption of ICP and delist a work for export (for international auctions, for example).

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