Torre de Manila unit buyers urged: Demand refund

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Aug 29 2014 05:32 PM | Updated as of Aug 30 2014 02:32 AM

MANILA - Tour guide and cultural activist Carlos Celdran advised those who bought units from the controversial Torre de Manila to demand a refund from the condominium's property developer DMCI Homes.

Speaking to dzMM, Celdran said the looming filing of a case against DMCI Homes may result in the delay in completion of construction of the 46-storey building, which has been criticized for ruining the sightline of the Rizal Monument.

''Ang message ko sa lang sa mga investor, kung meron kayong biniling unit dyan, dapat ibalik na ang pera, dahil ma-a-alter na talaga ang construction timetable,'' he said.

Celdran made this call after Sen. Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, encouraged the filing of a case against DMCI due to the building's questionable zoning exemption.

Cayetano noted that DMCI was only allowed to build a seven-storey condo. DMCI Homes, however, appealed for an exemption to the local zoning laws.

Torre de Manila was already 19 floors high as of August 20, according to DMCI Homes' website.

In November last year, the Manila City Council issued a resolution suspending the construction of the building, saying the project violated a zoning ordinance pertaining to floor area ratio and height restrictions within a University/Institution Cluster Zone.

However, in January this year, the Manila Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals (MBZAA) reconsidered the suspension after DMCI Homes appealed for an exemption to local zoning laws. The city council did not appeal or reverse the recommendation made by the MBZAA.

Celdran and DMCI Homes had also agreed to just find ways to restore the view at the Luneta Park without resorting to having the building demolished. Among the remedies is to build trees tall enough to block the view of the tower when one is standing near the monument.

''I was agreeing to anything, basta ibalik mo ang focus kapag tinignan mo ang Rizal Monument. Whether it (construction) stops or continues, ang pinaka-concern ko eh is na-pervert na ang visual sightline ni Jose Rizal,'' he said.

Celdran, however, said he might finally go back to his original demand that the construction be put to a halt after Cayetano suggested that the developer may have violated the city's zoning requirements.

''Iyung gusto ko i-chop mo, i-lower ang building o itigil. But you know ang lakas talaga ng pera ng DMCI at ng mga lawyers. I was exploring every aspect in order to improve the situation. Pero ngayon ang sabi ni Sen. Pia, may nahanap na talaga na violations. So all the things I agreed upon don't need to happen anymore,'' he said.

Celdran said he will not be among those who will file a case against DMCI. He said those keen to file a case include the Knights of Rizal and some heritage conservation groups.

Sen. Caytano said those who will file a case against DMCI Homes can use the "builder in good faith" and the "builder in bad faith" argument.

A builder in good faith is someone who starts the construction of a building or a house without knowing any flaw in the land title or permits.

In the case of Torre de Manila, the company was aware that there are problems in its zoning permits, Cayetano said.

The senator conceded, however, that the laws on cultural and heritage preservation are not clear when it comes to the issue of panoramic sightline.

Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno also urged concerned citizens to just file a case against DMCI, saying that only the court can issue a cease and desist order against the project.

Moreno added the city government believes that the property developer is complying with the requirements.

''The city government required them to comply and they complied with the requirements of the local government unit,'' Moreno said.

''With regard to the national heritage, sabi naman ng National Historical Institute, wala silang objection. So ako tingin ko, ang ating mga kababayan, tignan nila ang payo na baka pwede silang humingi ng cease and desist order from the court."