THE news from Baguio City as of May 10 was that the Suntrust 88 (owned by Megaworld) wall that has reportedly collapsed and been rebuilt five times, has collapsed for the nth time. And the next-door neighbors now reveal that the wall has fallen more than five times, more like 10 times. As a result,the Gibraltar Road in front of the property is in effect a goner. What is left of the road has nothing supporting it, so even one-way traffic is dangerous on such empty and eroded foundations. And of course, the project is atrociously delayed.
Now the barangay chair and his officials are complaining too. Before that, it seems they had been lured to give the barangay clearance based on the usual Megaworld promises that not only do not materialize but turn the neighborhood into a hellish area of broken culverts, severed sewage lines and destroyed roads.
I was in Baguio this weekend and the reality was a dire environmental disaster. Now neighbors, concerned city residents and environmentalists are up in arms over what Suntrust 88 has wrought in the neighborhood.
One concerned person went on Facebook to denounce Suntrust 88 for its environmental compliance certificate (ECC) which the Facebook contributor called “all lies from the start.” Among them, that no trees would be cut, and that an unbelievably minimal amount of water would be needed for more than 400 units. Incidentally, not even half of the units will have parking space. Despite this absence of parking, the front part of the condominium will be a commercial area, of course. This will mean more vehicles competing for street space in the already crowded Mines View area. But then every inch has to be made to pay.
A neighbor living in a 24-unit condominium nearby pooh-poohed the water consumption estimate that Suntrust 88 put in its ECC, saying their 24 units use about the same amount estimated for the 400 units. He is also wondering whether soil tests have really validated the construction of what seems to be a12-story building (Baguio City zoning allows only up to 7 stories).
And so it goes. Letters written to Megaworld, the owner of Suntrust 88, remain unanswered. No repair of the damaged road or culverts have been undertaken. Relatives of City Hall officials are scurrying around trying to convince the neighborhood to accept the planned highrise and the barangay to stop complaining.
Some of the affected residents want a hearing convened by the city council regarding the building permit, the water and the parking viability but there is no support from City Hall. Local government has failed its residents here.
The whole mess is destruction of environment, public roads and a grievous disturbance of the peace. From the results, it would seem Megaworld pays its public relations gofers more than they pay their engineers and architects. It has won a so-called “unprecedented’ back-to-back award as the Best Developer two years in a row, plus a slew of other titles that make one wonder what the judges were thinking, doing or smoking. Or, perhaps they have not visited the Megaworld universe, just seen its plans on paper where they look best, not the reality that is on the ground. They should survey the clients. Who’s fooling who?
An architect friend explained the situation as the hypnotic spell of the profit figures that Megaworld produces as publicized repeatedly by their hard-working PR staff. If you make so much, you must be so good. Also, that they have found the uncanny and clever formula for the market, making people accept their standards (bad) against what their (the customers’) money should really buy (good or at least better).
I spoke to the seller of the property who seems to be suffering seller’s remorse. He used to live in the property and is appalled at the sinkhole it has been turned into. I asked whether he had accepted some units as part payment (a Megaworld ploy) because if he did, he will have serious remorse long into the future. I know a Megaworld partner who went through that. The last word about doing business with Megaworld – it was a mistake.