One of the things that I appreciate about President Duterte is his consistent stand against oligarchs’ abusive ways (no matter how selective), and his notion of community justice that happens not just in terms of peace and order ala war on drugs (highly arguable strategy notwithstanding), but also in terms of bringing back peace and quiet to our communities. During the campaign, I heard him talk about videoke bans in public places, and I was hopeful that things might change for us who suffer through the incessant construction noise of big urban land developers.
Noise pollution is a health hazard, and we suffer through it with no respite, every day, including Sundays and holidays.
The culprit: Ayala Land.
Living with Ayala Land
Amaia Land on Shaw Boulevard was kind enough in the beginning, asking about our concerns as residents who would be affected by their construction. We talked noise levels, traffic, hours of work. They said they would make sure to care for the community. This was 2014.
Two years since, and the Ayalas are now the worst neighbor ever. Absentee landlords who insist that its workers construct this building from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., including Sundays and holidays. There is no more time for rest, no holidays from this noise, no leisure in our own home. My senior citizen parents cannot take their afternoon siestas, and cannot sleep earlier than 10 p.m.
In 2015, I again wrote about this construction: Things had gone from bad to worse. Ayala was having its workers clock in 24 hours of construction work every day.
“The Amaia construction and the Ayalas who own it have not cared at all about the residents in this neighborhood. As I write this, they are hammering away, cement trucks [or whatever construction machines]are churning, all heard from this room I’ve had for the past 25 years. Let me not even begin about the honking of horns that happens throughout the day, and which when it happens in the late evenings and early mornings will wake you up with a jolt. If you are able to sleep through the noise at all.” (2:34 to 4:35 a.m., 14 October 2015)
After that article, Amaia got in touch with us through Tricia Macawile, manager of their Customer Care Group. She sent a letter from Wilborn Famatigan, Customer Services head and Lowell G. Cortez, Operations head of Makati Development Corporation Buildplus. They promised to address our concerns.
Yet throughout the past year, I have emailed them constantly, asking about the noise from their site; recently my mother’s been sending those emails– all caps, angry, usually right after she wakes up because of the noise.
In the beginning, Macawile was insistent that we sit down with Amaia; I said they should speak to the whole community, with City Hall officials present. No meeting was set up.
Macawile’s replies are now few and far between and understandably so: How do you reply for the Ayalas when these oligarchs have decided they do not care about the noise they make and the disturbance that they cause to a neighborhood they do not live in?
I dare the Ayalas to live near one of their construction sites, and let’s see if they can even survive a day with this noise.
The Ayalas: Health hazard
Things have gone on for too long. Apparently there’s another Amaia tower being built, so it’s like we’re back to where we were in 2014–the noise of metal on metal hammering, loud construction machines and the sounds of huge slabs of steel being dropped to the ground, echoing through our home.
This does not only mean waking up with a start, it also means being disturbed throughout the day. It is enough to give you palpitations. The stress of this constant construction noise is not only a nuisance, it is also a health hazard.
Recently, Macawile told us that they were actually within the decibel limit allowed. “The sound during the works last weekend was within the allowed decibel limit of 75 db (class 3-4). <…> Please allow us to note that the LGU approval was that we can commence daily constructions works on site at 8 a.m. but we have adjusted it to 10 a.m. during weekends considering noise disturbance.” (6 September 2016)
The basis of the 75-decibel limit? A 1980 Martial Law document written by the Ministry of Human Settlements. I asked for the LGU permit she says they were given. Eight days since and nothing.
I also reminded her that we have suffered with Ayala Land for two years, on daily 14-hour construction noise. And while we might not get hearing impairment from this noise (though their construction workers would), this is a serious enough hazard that can cause hypertension (70 to 85db) and ishchemic heart disease (70db); it also takes such low decibels to disturb sleep (<60db) and affect sleep quality (40db) (PublicHealthMDC.com, 2013).
We’ve asked of Amaia Land’s representatives often: Will they be spending for our medical bills given the adverse effects of this noise on our health?
Actually, that’s a question for the Ayalas.
The Ayalas get away with …
On another Sunday with noise from a machine that seemed to be crushing something, my father went to the construction site asking about permits. They said they had one from the barangay but could not produce it. My father went to the barangay, and the barangay official had no idea a permit had been given to Amaia to work on Sundays. Three days since, and no permit in sight.
At the construction site, my father was also told that it was the site people who adjusted working hours to until 10 p.m. In fact, they are only supposed to work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. It is unclear what the working hours are supposed to be the rest of the week.
These conflicting stories, the runaround my father received, the missing permits, the blame that is put on the barangay or the Mandaluyong City Hall, speaks of the kind of irresponsibility that oligarchies like the Ayalas’ get away with in this country. The fact that this development is also a public nuisance, a pollutant and a health hazard two years in, reeks of the kind of impunity that these developers exercise.
Ayala Land says they are about enriching the lives of more people. Actually, they are about enriching only the Ayalas, never mind the health and sanity of the neighborhood. And until the President finds the time to start thinking about all these other things that affect the peace and order of our communities, oligarchs like the Ayalas will believe they can get away with anything.
They’ve been getting away with it all these years.