SC justice questions Torre de Manila zoning permit

Gerard Lim
SC justice questions Torre de Manila zoning permit
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen asks why DMCI started constructing Torre de Manila in 2012 when it was only granted variance to build beyond the allowed height 2 years after
MANILA, Philippines – Citing an irregularity, Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen questioned the validity of the zoning permit issued by the city government of Manila to DMCI Homes for the construction of Torre de Manila.
“I’m confused. The city planning officer approved the permit, which already includes the variance, but in June 19, 2012, there was no resolution or ordinance from the city council allowing the variance?” said Leonen when the court heart oral arguments on the case on Tuesday, August 11.
The zoning permit in question was approved by Manila city’s planning and development officer, Resty Rebong, on June 19, 2012. It granted DMCI a variance to build a 49-story condominium.
DMCI also started pre-selling parts of the property in October 2012 and started construction in November 2012, according to DMCI’s lawyer Victor Lazatin.
Leonen questioned the validity of the permit, asking Lazatin how DMCI could have started building Torre de Manila when the variance was only approved 2 years after acquiring the zoning permit.
Leonen cited section 63 of the Manila Zoning Ordinance noting that in cases of variances and exceptions, developers should refer to the Sangguniang Panlungsod, Manila Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals (MZBAA) and the Committee on Housing, Urban Development and resettlements “prior to conducting any business activity or construction on their property/land.”
Furthermore, Leonen questioned how Rebong could have granted DMCI variance for Torre de Manila, when Manila’s zoning ordinance was still in effect.
Lazatin said there was no reason for DMCI to go to MZBAA since the variance for the construction of the condominium was already approved by the city planning and development officer.
He also argued that the city’s zoning ordinance was also suspended by the “executive branch” and that the legal opinion of the city of Manila was that the construction of Torre de Manila did not violate any laws or ordinances.
Leonen then asked for the legal basis for the suspension of the zoning ordinance favoring the construction of the high-rise condominium.
DMCI lawyer Roberto Dio admitted that they could not see “any provision authorizing the city of Manila to suspend the ordinance.” Dio added that the company only “relied on the legal opinion of the city planning and development officer” at the time.
“I’m quite worried. You paid P1.135 million for a zoning permit which now appears, at face value, based simply on the ordinance and the documents, to have violated section 63,” Leonen said. –

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