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MANILA, Philippines – Suntrust Properties refuted critics of its condominium project in Santa Ana, Manila, and said the centuries-old paintings in Santa Ana Church “are not in serious danger” due to the company’s construction activities.
“By the nature of the vibration and the distance of the project site from Santa Ana Church, it is unlikely that Suntrust’s construction will endanger the Santa Ana paintings,” Suntrust said in a statement provided to Rappler.
“As mentioned in Rappler’s article, Suntrust Ascentia is 170 meters away from the Santa Ana Church, where the national cultural treasures are located. Based on Suntrust’s study last September 16, 2023, vibrations were felt within 60 meters only,” said the statement provided by Suntrust’s legal counsel, Leah Martizano.
The Manila City Council is set to hold a hearing on Thursday, September 28, to discuss the sociocultural and environmental impact of the Suntrust Ascentia project.
The parish priest, parishioners, and heritage advocates earlier said that the heavy pounding and drilling in the condominium project threatened to damage the Santa Ana Church paintings.
“These [paintings on the ceiling] are seriously in danger of irreparable damage due to the heavy pounding and pile driving of a major developer that is illegally constructing three high-rises of 36 stories each within the buffer zone of the declared heritage zone of Santa Ana, Manila,” said National Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned parish priest and rector Father Virgilio del Mundo Jr.
The developer argued, however, that the painting’s chipping off is caused by aging, a problem which they claim to have been present as early as October 2021.
In an observation conducted by Suntrust on September 16, Suntrust found that vibrations were only felt within 60 meters of the site.
On the same day, Suntrust assistant vice president Manolito Elmann went to the church’s camarin (a “dressing room” of the image of Mary) to see how the insertion of the cylinder affected the area. He said he didn’t feel any vibrations from 8:35 to 9:15 am, according to the Suntrust statement.
“As the camarin was about to close and the insertion of the cylinder continued, he went inside the Santa Ana Church to observe again. Likewise, no tremors were felt,” said Suntrust.
Suntrust also refuted claims that they do not have the necessary “valid and genuine” permits to construct the condominium project.
The developer said that the construction of Suntrust Ascentia is not illegal, as it was registered under the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) in January 2021 with permit number 21-01-005.
“[Suntrust] went through the process and patiently waited for five years for the issuance of the barangay resolution, barangay clearance, and certificate of no objection. Suntrust wrote Barangay 885 not just once but four times to follow up its application for a barangay clearance. Public hearings were held twice attended by the barangay officials, residents of Barangay 885, and Suntrust’s representatives,” Suntrust said.
Suntrust also said that it has the original copy of the barangay resolution, barangay clearance, and certificate of no objection bearing the dry seal of Barangay 885.
According to Suntrust, the barangay officials cannot dispute or question the legitimacy and accuracy of certain documents because their own chairman, Richard Lopez, has verified a duplicate copy of these documents as being true and genuine.
Last week, the developer filed perjury and false testimony complaints against top village officials in Santa Ana, Manila
Meanwhile, the residents have expressed frustration at the tremors and noises from the construction site since the construction started again in August 2023. Some residents claimed cracks appeared on their floors because of the construction.
Suntrust said, however, that they did not receive any complaint regarding the harm or damage to the nearby heritage sites and structures caused by the construction.
Suntrust deemed the allegation of “incessant heavy pounding and frightening earth shaking night and day” as an exaggeration.
“It is true that there is a tremor that may be felt, but it is only for a few minutes in the morning, when cylinders are inserted on the ground. Such tremor is similar to what is felt like when a heavy vehicle passes in front of your house,” Suntrust said.
On Thursday, September 21, Suntrust president Harry Paltongan visited some homes near the Suntrust Ascentia condominium project “to listen to residents’ concerns and assure them that the construction will not jeopardize their properties or safety.”
Martizano also said that Suntrust is willing to communicate and extend help to the church and residents. – Rappler.com