The State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property on 11 February 2011. From 27 to 31 October 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at it 34th session (Brasilia, 2010). The mission report is available online at the following web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM/
a) Buffer zone
The State Party reports that the buffer zone for one of the property’s components, the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo, was legally established in 2007 along with regulatory measures which include restrictions for land use. The mission reports that the buffer zone is being adequately managed and regulations are being enforced.
As for the other component, the Historic District of Panama, the State Party reports that work has continued on cartographically identifying the potential limits, establish zoning and define regulatory measures that would allow for a controlled transition between the historic centre and the modern city. As part of the process, public hearings have been held to gain feedback and consensus on the proposal. An action plan for the creation of the buffer zone was included in the report which foresees continuation of works through September 2011. However, no potential date for completion, which would entail the Enactment of the Act and publication on the Official Gazette, has been included. The mission noted that the proposal has not been concluded and no legal support exists yet. It highlighted concerns about proposals for large scale developments in the area foreseen as a buffer zone.
b) Legislative framework and policies for the property
The report provides information on the existing laws and decrees for the property and indicates that currently Law No. 9, pertaining to tax incentives, and Law No. 14, related to protection measures and management, are under review. The mission noted that additional means to legally protect the property are being explored, including the potential declaration of the Historic Centre as a special district, as a recommendation given by the mission to the President of Panama. A recent agreement has been signed between the Office of the Historic District (OCA) and the Patronato of Panama Viejo to enhance coordination of actions undertaken for the conservation and rehabilitation of both component sites of the property. The mission notes however that this has yet to be operational.
The State Party also reports that the creation of a National Commission for World Heritage has been decided. The mission noted that this Commission is currently undergoing legal approval to get the status of a Presidential Decree.
As for preservation and protection policies, the report notes that criteria and guidelines for intervention have been established and are enforced for Panama Viejo. In the case of the Historic District, regulations and guidelines are based on an Executive Decree which calls for Normative and Procedures for restoration and rehabilitation of the Historic District. New proposals are currently being developed to make their implementation, and the sanction process for transgressions, more effective. The mission notes that although this framework exists, there are important deficiencies in its enforcement and a clear and overarching policy for the Historic District is still missing.
c) Management arrangements and resources
The State Party provided figures for interventions at both components of property, including rehabilitation and restoration, social programmes, dissemination and cultural activities. It also reports that human resources have been increased and teams have been created to address diverse issues. Additional staff benefited from diverse training activities throughout 2010.
The mission underscored that although progress has been made, management arrangements are still not efficiently operating. Factors that hinder the efficacy of the management system include the lack of sufficient authority to enforce regulations and apply sanctions in various processes that occur at the Historic Centre, the insufficiency, complexity and overlaps in existing legal instruments and the lack of an updated and legally supported Master Plan for the Historic Centre. In addition, other planning tools have not been articulated with those for the World Heritage property, resulting in conflicting agendas and priorities and significant challenges remain in addressing issues such as property ownership. Finally, the mission considers that the technical and financial resources available for the Historic District are largely insufficient to adequately deal with the threats to the property.
The situation is different with the management of the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo. In that case, the Patronato adequately and efficiently functions and has adequate resources for conservation, protection and research activities, largely in part to fund-raising efforts.
d) State of conservation of the property
The mission expressed its concern regarding the Historic Centre particularly in regard to the existence of a significant number of largely deteriorated and neglected historic buildings, the continuing gentrification process, and issues of poverty and living conditions, insecurity and vehicular traffic.
As for Panama Viejo, the mission noted that the overall state of conservation is satisfactory and reiterated that the Avenida Cincuentenario remains the main threat. New proposals have been identified for the deviation of this avenue and there are indications that the Ministry of Public Works will implement the alternative presented by the Patronato.
e) Cinta Costera Project
No information was provided by the State Party on this decision by the World Heritage Committee. The mission verified that the Cinta Costera Phase 2 project is currently under accelerated construction at the Historic District´s former harbour area known as Terraplén. No environmental and heritage impact assessments have been submitted for review in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. The mission also visited the underground parking area presently under construction as part of the project and noted the massiveness of the structure and its impact on the scale of the surroundings.
The mission considers that Phase 3 of the project would pose an even larger threat to the integrity of the property. There are currently two alternatives for the route, the first one surrounding the Historic District and the second one traversing the Historic District with a tunnel. The mission considers that the first alternative is unacceptable as it would transform the District´s traditional form and image on its coastline, an important part of the values for which warranted inscription on the World Heritage List. The second alternative, besides being too expensive, could entail risks to the structural stability of the old and deteriorated built heritage. No studies on their physical, social or functional impacts and risks have been undertaken at the present time.