Gramercy got Makati OK after 5 floors added

By: Jerry E. Esplanada, May 3rd, 2013 05:30 AM

UNDER CONSTRUCTION. It is still under construction, contrary to a front page photograph in Thursday’s issue, where the Inquirer erroneously said it has already been completed. The Knightsbridge Residences was mistaken for the building soon to rise in Makati City. ROMY HOMILLADA

MANILA, Philippines—The 73-story Gramercy Residences secured an amended building permit from the Makati City government only on June 8, 2012, more than a year after the construction of the skyscraper’s five additional floors was completed, according to the local Office of the Building Official (OBO).

In a Feb. 25, 2013, letter to the National Building Code Office, OBO legal officer Amando Fabio Jr. said the permit was issued to Century City Development Corp. (CCDC), Gramercy’s owner and developer, “after proper evaluation and assessment of all documents, plans and specifications submitted to this office and after a thorough inspection of the building.”

The inspection, he said, was “conducted by our technical staff pursuant to the provisions of the National Building Code and its implementing rules and regulations.”

“It is true that it took only four days from the date of application (June 4, 2012) for the issuance of the building permit since all plans, specifications and related requirements submitted to this office conformed to the requirements of the code and its regulated regulations,” Fabio said.

“Further, it is not required of us to indicate in the permit itself that we conducted the inspection on the building, since this is part of our mandate. Corollary to this, the International Organization for Standardization requires us to issue the required permits within seven working days from submission of all requirements,” he said.

“There is no need for this office to conduct any investigation to determine the liability, if any, of CCDC, since a valid permit was already issued for the five additional floors.”

The real estate firm Picar Development Corp., which is building the 74-story Stratford Residences near Gramercy on Kalayaan Avenue in Makati, has alleged that the addition of the five floors atop Gramercy was illegal. The Inquirer erroneously suggested yesterday in its report on the controversy that Stratford had been completed.

Must

“It’s a must.”

Elizabeth Pilorin, head of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) public information and assistance division, was referring to the government requirement of securing a building permit before constructing or repairing a building, as well as adding a portion to the structure.

Citing the National Building Code of the Philippines, she told the Inquirer “it is a requirement” and is “clearly stated” in the same law, also known as Presidential Decree No. 1096.

Pilorin was apparently referring to Section 301 of the code, which states: “No person, firm or corporation, including any agency or instrumentality of the government, shall construct, alter, repair, convert, use, occupy, move, demolish and add any building/structure or any portion thereof, or cause the same to be done without first obtaining a building permit from the Building Official assigned in the place where the subject building/structure is located or to be done.”

On the other hand, a building permit shall not be required for the following:

NOT YET . Artist’s perspective of the 74-story Stratford Residences on Kalayaan Avenue in Makati City, where International School Manila used to stand. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Minor construction of sheds, greenhouses, children’s playhouses, aviaries, poultry houses and the like, open terraces or patios, window grills, garden pools for water plants or aquarium fish and garden masonry walls.

Repair work on deteriorated roofing sheets or tiles, gutters and ceilings, partition walls, doors and windows, and flooring.

Sought for comment, architect Emmanuel Cuntapay, director of the DPWH-attached National Building Code Office, said violators of the building permit-related provisions of the code face only administrative liabilities.

“They have no criminal liabilities. They face only administrative penalties, like fines,” he said.

In a phone interview, Cuntapay said “with the construction of the additional floors of [Gramercy Residences], at stake here is public safety.”

“That is why it is a DPWH concern,” he added.

In a Jan. 28 letter-complaint to the Department of Public Works and Highways, Picar said Gramercy secured an amended building permit “long after, not before” the five floors were completed in early 2011.

Picar also pointed out that “the construction of the five additional floors was outside Gramercy’s approved building permit.” The original building permit, issued in 2007, said Gramercy could only build a 68-story structure, Picar claimed.

On March 13, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson issued an order preventing the owners of Gramercy from issuing occupancy permits for the top five floors of the structure pending the resolution of the Picar complaint.

Singson also directed the OBO to submit the Gramercy file, including the skyscraper’s structural soundness, to the department.

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