Experts doubt Makati building is world-class
MANILA, Philippines–The 11-story Makati City Hall Parking Building at the center of overpricing allegations is not world-class as it has gypsum boards for most of its internal walls and office floors covered with rolling vinyl, which is similar to linoleum, according to experts tapped by the Senate blue ribbon committee to evaluate the edifice.
Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV were the only lawmakers who attended the inspection of the building’s features on Monday. They were joined by engineers, an architect and a quantity surveyor.
The inspection was intended to help the committee determine whether big amounts of public funds were spent for its construction.
Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay earlier explained the P2.3-billion cost of the structure by saying that it was world-class and Makati’s version of a green building.
The mayor added that the building had to be given a strong foundation because it was built on soft ground.
He and his father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was the mayor when the construction of the parking building began in 2007, also denied allegations that the structure was overpriced. Both father and son are facing a plunder complaint over the issue.
Unoccupied office spaces
The building, constructed from 2007 to 2012, has a roof deck with a garden, five floors of office and storage space, though many have yet to be occupied, and six parking levels.
The Senate resource persons—quantity surveyor Greg Jackson and architect Danilo Alano—took note of the vinyl flooring and the drywalls in the offices, and the finishes of the building, among other features.
But the experts could not as yet make a categorical statement on the cost of the building’s construction because they still had to study the actual plans.
Jackson told the senators that the building’s finishes and materials appeared to be quite standard and that he saw nothing unusual in the finishes, materials and design details.
“It’s an average, standard office building,” Jackson later told reporters. “I’d say it’s a modern building of average standard, but I wouldn’t consider it to be world-class standard.”
Alano also said he found the building to be average.
Asked later if he considered it world-class, Alano told reporters that he would apply the phrase to something comparable to a five-star hotel or a five-star condominium.
What he saw in the inspection was an average building and one that was not so exceptional, he added.
Gypsum boards, linoleum
Alano noted that most of the internal walls were drywalls, or gypsum boards attached to metal frames. These are usually used in office partitions, and are lighter and cheaper than concrete, he said.
He also said the flooring of the building was typical of any big building such as hospitals or supermarkets. Rolling vinyl, similar to linoleum, was used on the floors.
As for the cracks in the tiles in the parking ramp, he said these were normal.
Property appraiser Federico Cuervo, who appeared in previous Senate hearings on the Makati building, maintained his initial assessment that a building in Makati in 2007 would have cost just P23,000 per square meter.
After seeing the building himself and taking note of the experts’ initial assessment, Trillanes said his opinion that the building was overpriced was bolstered.
Trillanes also said he found nothing special about the building. “After the ocular inspection, there is no doubt in my mind that it is grossly overpriced.”
The camp of the Vice President dismissed Trillanes’ statement that there was nothing world-class about the building as biased and subjective.
“What is important is that the materials used are the same ones reflected in the bill of materials, bidding was conducted and that the Commission on Audit audited the entire process and rendered a finding that there was no overpricing,” said Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla, Binay’s spokesman.
“Outside these issues, they are subjective, biased statements,” Remulla said in a statement.
From roof deck to basement
The senators’ inspection of the building started at the roof deck, which has a garden. Then they went down floor by floor.
The 11th and 10th floors consisted mainly of storage spaces and had no centralized air conditioning. The seventh to ninth floors were reserved for offices, but many remained empty. Makati City officials said personnel would soon move into the offices.
The sixth floor down to the basement was reserved for parking, with 70 slots each.
Trillanes noted that parking slots did not have sensors that had become increasingly common in malls and which would indicate through a light above the parking space whether the space was occupied or not.
He also said some of the areas in the building appeared to be newly painted.
The senators also visited the bathrooms, which had toilets with a manual flush. The building has two elevators.
Before the scheduled 9 a.m. inspection, supporters of the Binays massed up in front of the controversial building carrying placards showing messages of support for the mayor.
About 800 Makati residents from all the 33 villages in the city expressed their “indignation” at the Senate probe.
Some participants, who gathered at the City Hall quadrangle, just in front of the parking building, booed Pimentel and Trillanes while others cheered for Mayor Binay and the Vice President.
Carrying banners expressing their support for the Binays, the Makati residents condemned the “unjust persecution of their leaders on the basis of unfounded accusations” made by their political opponents.
“To the senators and parties out to destroy our beloved Vice President Jojo Binay, the people of Makati will fight!” said South Cembo barangay (village) chair Ritchie Rodriguez. His statement drew a loud response from the crowd.
Renato Bondal, one of the complainants in the plunder case against the Binays, said the people were “paid” to show up at the rally.
Mass against corruption
An hour before the start of the Senate inspection, Bondal and his co-complainant, Nicolas “Ching” Enciso VI, attended a Holy Mass against Corruption to pray and ask for more support in the fight against fraudulent practices in government.
They were joined by about 50 members of the group United Makati against Corruption at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Barangay Palanan.–With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
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