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Manila Central Post Office catches fire; already 'under control' after over 8 hours

By NICK GARCIA Published May 22, 2023 9:58 am Updated May 23, 2023 8:41 am

The Manila Central Post Office caught fire late Sunday, May 21, and was already declared under control after over eight hours. But the iconic building's structure was "totally burned," destroying all parcels—including national identification cards—inside.

The fire happened past 11 p.m. It was raised to second alarm on May 22 at 1:09 a.m, according to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and was placed on general alarm, the highest level, at 5:54 a.m.

The BFP said the fire was already "under control" as of 7:22 a.m.

Mark Laurente, chief of staff of the postmaster general, said the fire started from the basement where paper and wood are being stored.

Nahum Tarroza, regional director of Bureau of Fire Protection National Capital Region, noted that the building is made up of light materials.

"Mga kahoy, mga papel, may kalumaan na. Kung makikita niyo, umabot hanggang third floor kasi ang mga sahig, kahoy lahat," Tarroza said. "Totally burned ang lahat ng structure natin, 100%"

This means all items inside the building were destroyed by the fire.

Luis Carlos, postmaster general of the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) whose headquarters are at the Post Office, at the Laging Handa public briefing said they're still getting the data for the destroyed items.

"Hopefully, we can find all those data," Carlos said.

The official noted that other post offices are handling other parcels, letters, and national IDs, and that they're moving to the foreign service mail distribution center on Delpan.

"Kung ano man ang natupok dito, it's only for Manila," Carlos said.

In a press briefing, Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna assured the public that the area that the post office stands on will not be used to build another establishment given its status as an institutional zone and an important cultural property.

“Ang national historical institute idineklara na ang buong lugar bilang isang heritage zone. Kapag ganito, hindi na maaaring pang patayuan ng kahit anumang gusali maliban sa naturing na post office doon sa lugar na ito,” Lacuna explained.

“Napoproteksyunan ng ating zoning ordinance, na kahit ang Pamahalaang Lungsod ng Maynila o kahit ang national government ay hindi maaaring magpatayo ng kahit anumang imprastraktura sa lugar na iyon.”

The Post Office serves as the country's main mail sorting and distribution operations, as well as the headquarters of PHLPost.

The neoclassical-style building, designed by Juan Arellano and Tomás Mapúa, is a national historical landmark.

Construction began in 1926, but was severely damaged at the Battle of Manila during World War II. It was rebuilt in 1946, in which much of the original design was kept.

(Editor's Note: This story is updated to include the statements from Nahum Tarroza, regional director of Bureau of Fire Protection National Capital Region, and Luis Carlos, Philippine Postal Corporation Postmaster General Luis Carlos.)