WAR OF SCRAPERS
2 Makati towers’ race to the top hits legal snagBy Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Donald Trump and Paris Hilton may not be able to step any time soon on the top floors of what their publicists claim is the tallest building in the Philippines.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has issued an order preventing the owners of The Gramercy Residences on Kalayaan Avenue in Makati City from issuing occupancy permits for the top five floors of the building.
The DPWH order on March 13 was issued to Century City Development Corp. Inc. (CCDC), the Gramercy owner and developer.
This followed a complaint filed in the department on Jan. 28 by the owners of Stratford Residences, the Picar Development Corp., that CCDC constructed Gramercy’s five top floors without the necessary building permit from the Makati government. Picar also claimed that Gramercy did not undergo a building inspection by the city engineers.
The DPWH papers say Gramercy has 73 floors; Stratford 74. From afar in the Makati skyline, Gramercy conjures an image of a bulky Wilt Chamberlain; Stratford, a slender Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
The law firm Puno & Puno, counsel for Gramercy, said Wednesday that its client had secured the necessary permit and that Picar, whose chairman is former Ambassador Amable Aguiluz V, had no legal personality to lodge a complaint against Gramercy, owned by the Antonio family with partners Trump, one of the top US property developers, and Hilton, a popular model and wealthy heiress of one of the world’s largest hotel chains.
It is unclear if the complaint was prompted by bragging rights. The two buildings sit on property on Kalayaan previously owned by International School. The Gramercy website says its building is the “undisputed tallest skyscraper in the country.” On deadline, the Inquirer was unable to secure documents comparing the height of Gramercy and Stratford in inches or meters.
Not about height
When this issue was raised in an item last month in the Inquirer’s Business section column Biz Buzz, Gramercy’s spokesperson Terrie Fucanan-Yu saw fit to issue a clarification:
“Our vision for the Gramercy Residences transcends the issue of height. Indeed our emphasis has always been largely on Gramercy’s life-enhancing amenities, hotel-style concierge services and its unique location in Century City.
“We are not in a race to deliver the tallest building in the Philippines. We just endeavor to deliver the building that we had promised our clients to make them happy.
“We applied for an increase in building height as it was allowed for our overall floor area ratio by our zoning. Additionally, we ensured that our structural consultants considered this height in their design plans. As a result, the Gramercy building conforms beyond the requirements mandated by the local building code.
“Delivering tall and iconic buildings is our contribution to making Metro Manila a global destination that can compete with Asia’s world-class cities. We are also genuinely delighted when other developers share this goal, passion and work ethic.
“We salute those who plan to build taller, progressive structures for the betterment of this nation and our people. After all, that is what this business is really all about.”
Makati City restrained
In a March 13 directive, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson asked the Makati City government to refrain from “processing or issuing certificates of occupancy for the subject five additional floors of Gramercy Residences until after this case is resolved with finality.”
Singson directed Makati to submit the Gramercy file, including the building’s structural soundness, to the department.
Responding to the DPWH order, CCDC claimed it had secured the necessary permits from the Makati City’s Office of the Building Official (OBO) and said Picar had “no legal personality” to question its operations.
In its letter-complaint, Picar alleged that the construction of the additional floors was illegal. It said Gramercy secured an amended building permit only in early June 2012 when the construction of its top five floors was completed in January 2011. Its original building permit, issued in 2007, said it could only build a 68-story structure.
Picar called the department’s attention to the allegedly “questionable” issuance by Makati City of an “amended building permit for the five additional floors on June 8, 2012, long after, not before they were completed.”
“There is no indication in the amended building permit that the OBO inspected the building project to ensure that it complied with the National Building Code, or that it conducted the necessary inspection to determine CCDC’s liability, if any, for the construction of five additional floors without any valid building permit,” Picar told Singson.
Picar pointed out that “the construction of the five additional floors was outside Gramercy’s approved building permit.”
In an April 25, 2012 certification, engineer Nelson Morales, Makati’s building official, said based on OBO records, there was no application for an amended building permit for Gramercy.—With a report from Daxim L. Lucas