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What Went Before: The saga of Torre de Manila

/ 04:19 AM June 17, 2015

In June 2012, DM Consunji Inc. (DMCI) got a zoning permit that allowed the company to build Torre de Manila on Taft Avenue in Ermita, Manila, behind the lot previously occupied by the Manila Jai Alai building.

In the same month, an online campaign against the construction of the high-rise condominium project was launched by tour guide and activist Carlos Celdran, who said that the structure would mar the view of the iconic monument of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal at Luneta.

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The following month, the local government of Manila city, under the administration of then Mayor Alfredo Lim, granted a building permit to DMCI because the company, according to Melvin Balagot, the city building officer, had duly submitted all requirements, including an approval from the city planning office in the form of a zoning permit.

In November 2013, months after former President and now Mayor Joseph Estrada took over, the Manila City Council suspended the project’s construction citing zoning violations.

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However, in January 2014, construction continued after the Manila Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals granted DMCI an exemption from the zoning regulation.

Demolition sought

In September 2014, the Knights of Rizal, along with Las Damas de Rizal Philippines Inc., filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking the high court to stop DMCI from proceeding with the project and to order the “immediate and complete demolition” of Torre de Manila in order to preserve the visual corridors or vista of the Rizal Monument for posterity.

The group sought the building’s demolition because it allegedly violated several laws protecting national heritage sites, including the local zoning ordinance that allows only schools and government buildings of up to seven stories to be built in that part of Manila.

At the time, construction was around 23 percent complete, having reached 19 floors.

In November last year, the high court ordered the inclusion of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Museum of the Philippines, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and Manila city officials as intervenors in the case.

The Knights has since made several calls on the high court to finally issue a temporary restraining order, saying the building continues to rise each day.

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Hearings on the Torre de Manila project were conducted in the House of Representatives and Senate last year.

At a Senate hearing, Sen. Pia Cayetano pointed out that Manila’s zoning ordinance had set a floor to area ratio (FAR) of four on the property where the condominium was being built. The City Council found out that Torre de Manila’s FAR was 7.79. The building metric compares a structure’s total floor area to the size of the land on which it will be constructed.

Netizens, through an online Change.org petition, opposed the project, referring to it as “Terror de Manila” and “Pambansang Photobomb,” because it would ruin the iconic sightline of the national shrine.

NCAA cease order

On Jan. 5, the NCCA, one of the intervenors in the case, apparently acted on its own and issued a cease-and-desist order on the structure. The order was served on the Torre work site on Jan. 13.

The agency said the order would be implemented indefinitely until it had determined whether or not construction of the condominium “destroys or significantly alters the landscape” of the Rizal Monument.

The NCCA, however, claimed that DMCI had not abided by the order as shown by footage of ongoing construction at the work site.

Torre de Manila will have 49 floors, including 41 floors for residential units, four levels for podium parking space, three for basement parking, and a ground floor for various amenities. It has a land area of 7,448 square meters.

Hotels, hospitals, condos

DMCI was founded on Dec. 24, 1954, by David M. Consunji, a civil engineer from the University of the Philippines. Some of the landmark infrastructure that DMCI built include Mactan Shangri-La Hotel (Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu), Makati Shangri-la (Makati City), Shangri-la Resorts and Spa Boracay (Malay, Aklan), Manila Hotel (Rizal Park, Manila);

The Westin Philippine Plaza/Sofitel (CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Manila), Cultural Center of the Philippines (Roxas Boulevard, Manila), Ayala Tower One (Makati City), The New Istana Palace (Sultan’s Palace, Brunei, Darussalam), The Asian Hospital (Filinvest Corporate City, Muntinlupa) and The Manila Doctor’s Hospital (UN Avenue, Manila).

In 1999, DMCI spun off its housing division DMCI Homes. Other projects of DMCI Homes include Cedar Crest and Royal Palm Residences in Taguig, Magnolia Place in Tandang Sora in Quezon City, East Raya Gardens in Pasig, Flair Towers and Tivoli Garden Residences in Mandaluyong, La Verti Residences on Taft Avenue, Illumina Residences in Sta. Mesa, Ohana Place in Las Piñas, Siena Park Residences in Parañaque and Rhapsody Residences in Muntinlupa.–Inquirer Research

Sources: Inquirer Archives, www.dmcihomes.com

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TAGS: condominium project, DM Consunji Inc., DMCI, heritage, Rizal Monument, Torre de Manila
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