On 26 March 2005, the World Heritage Centre received information from the State Party, supplemented by information received from the World Monuments Fund (WMF) on 11 April 2005, concerning the study Proyecto Piloto de Panama, sponsored and executed by WMF and recently submitted to the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INAC) Panama. The project encompasses three phases:
First phase (executed): analysis of the threats affecting Portobelo and San Lorenzo and identification of its causes. The study concluded that the main factor threatening San Lorenzo’s Fort is the lack of a proper water drainage system, while in Portobelo the main threats derive from seawater erosion and urban pressure.
Second phase (executed): on the basis of the study carried out in phase 1, a new water drainage system was put in place in San Lorenzo.
Third phase (in progress): concentrates conservation efforts in the Portobelo complex. This phase has three main components, being 1) restoration, consolidation and renewal of the water drainage system in Portobelo’s Fortress; 2) needs assessment of the Fortaleza de Santiago; 3) proposal for the rehabilitation of the central urban area of Portobelo.
From the reports it can be established that the issues regardinguncontrolled urban development and tourism pressures reflect the absence of comprehensive Management Planning for the World Heritage property. Several plans have been developed that apparently have not been implemented, or only partially. The causes of this failure can be attributed to a lack of: feasibility of the plans proposed; integrated approach among stakeholders; articulation with territorial and municipal development plans; precise limits and buffer zones of the properties (the 2002 Reactive Monitoring mission underlined the need to define precise limits and buffer zones that take into account not only all existing historic remains and subsurface deposits, but also the visual integrity that reflects the strategic placement of architecture within the landscape).
ICOMOS praises the progress in the conservation works carried out in Portobelo and San Lorenzo, but at the same time stresses the need for a precise assessment of the significance of the whole World Heritage property, which should ultimately lead to a comprehensive long-term action plan with a prioritized course of action for research, prevention, conservation, monitoring, maintenance and presentation. Furthermore, ICOMOS underlines that the proposals for future interventions should consider possible impacts on the values, and integrity and authenticity of the properties. It further adds that, as the fortifications are subjected to several on-going conservation and restoration activities, initiated by different entities, it is necessary to coordinate efforts in order to avoid duplication.
Finally, regarding the increase of tourism pressures, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that although increasedvisitation could provide for economic benefits, it also requires more extensive archaeological and conservation work, putting in place comprehensive protection measures, and, most importantly, proper presentation and interpretation of what is to be visited. These measures are critical for the understanding and valorisation of San Lorenzo and Portobelo, not only with regard to the significance of its cultural heritage, but also of its natural heritage.