New landmark rises in San Juan landscape | Inquirer News

New landmark rises in San Juan landscape

/ 01:34 AM March 10, 2012

Next month, the city government of San Juan will open to the public what its officials call a “dream building,” a four-story building complete with a helipad on the top floor.

The building will house the new city hall, sitting on one hectare adjacent to the historical Pinaglabanan Shrine and a stone’s throw away from the city police headquarters and the fire station.

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“All it needs are just the finishing touches,” Grace Pardines, San Juan public information chief, told the Inquirer.

Pardines said that after the construction work is over by March 30, city hall employees will start moving in to the new building, which city architect Romeo Gonzales considers as the city’s “dream building.”

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The new city hall was constructed on what used to be a depressed community in Barangay (village) Corazon de Jesus populated by more than 2,000 families.

Work on the new city hall began in 2010 when resistance among the Corazon de Jesus residents, who were asked to leave the area and relocate to resettlement areas in Taytay and Rodriguez in Rizal province, was still starting to gain ground.

Since 2010, the several violent incidents had taken place in the barangay each time the local government carried out demolition operations.

The city government also came under attack from militant groups, which claimed that local officials had prioritized infrastructure over the welfare of the residents.

But Pardines said relocating the informal settlers had also been a tough job for city officials who said it was not easy convincing them to move into new houses built for them in Rizal.

“But now we can say that for the meantime, there won’t be any relocation for the remaining families who refuse to budge,” she said, referring to the government’s plan to have a moratorium on demolitions in the barangay.

Gonzales said the benefits of having a new city hall outweigh its costs.

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“This is triple the size of the old building. Before constructing the new one, we considered the flow of people going in and out of city hall,” he said.

The architect said that since 2008 when San Juan became a city, the old building on N. Domingo Street had been too cramped for its employees and those who had to transact business at city hall.

It even could not accommodate the satellite offices for national government agencies because of lack of space, Gonzales said.

“We designed city hall according to the city’s needs. On the first floor are offices frequented by our residents like the treasury and assessor’s offices,” he added. At the center is an atrium, which will serve as a visitors’ lounge.

Gonzales said they made the city hall look “old and historic,” since San Juan is a historical city.

The Pinaglabanan Shrine, which is located at San Juan, commemorates the first battle of the Filipino revolutionary group Katipunan in 1896 against the Spanish colonizers.

“But the design inside city hall is modern, for comfort and convenience,” Gonzales said.

There will also be a 5,000-square-meter parking lot, far more spacious than the old one.

Pinaglabanan Shrine employee Nilda Perito, a former Barangay Corazon de Jesus resident and now a Taytay resident, said the sight of the new city hall was enough to make her feel proud.

For her, the new city hall is a legacy that the Estradas, who have been ruling the city for decades, will be leaving behind.

San Juan has been known as “Erap country” ever since Joseph Estrada became mayor in 1967, and eventually senator, vice president and president.

The mayor’s seat has since been occupied by his sons Jinggoy Estrada, now a senator, and JV Ejercito, now San Juan representative. In the 2010 elections, JV’s mother, Guia Gomez, won as mayor.

Unlike Perito, however, Arnold Repique, president of Samana (Samahan ng mga Maralitang Nagkakaisa), an urban poor group in San Juan, doesn’t welcome the new addition to the city’s landscape.

“It should be called city mall, not city hall. It’s ironic to have what looks like a White House-inspired city hall when San Juan is only a small city,” he said.

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TAGS: City hall, local government, Philippines – Metro, San Juan City
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