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A business center in North Triangle is a bad idea

opinion / Columnists
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As I See It

A business center in North Triangle is a bad idea

/ 08:28 PM January 21, 2014

(Conclusion)

Seventeen months after failing in its first attempt to unlawfully grab the seven-hectare Environmental Center of the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation (MSBF), the Quezon City government, without any court order or legal document, again swooped down on the property before daybreak of Dec. 9, 2013, on the pretext that it had been forfeited in favor of the QC government. Personnel of City Hall’s Department of Public Order and Safety (DPOS), aided by policemen and private security guards supplied by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), padlocked the gates of the compound, preventing employees of the MSBF, workers of the tenant gardeners, and the public from entering.

The administration building was sealed off, the parking lot in front of the building cordoned off. MSBF employees were told that they were prohibited from working in the office. Two security guards were posted at the second floor to prevent employees from working. MSBF officers and employees who were allowed to enter were escorted by armed security guards to prevent them from doing their work; they were only allowed to collect their personal belongings and MSBF property. Asked to show a written order, the guards said they were given only verbal orders by City Administrator Victor Endriga and DPOS chief Elmo San Diego. Perhaps knowing that what they were doing was illegal, they did not want any written evidence against them.

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The raids at the MSBF demonstrate that when public officials lose their arguments and their sense of decency, they will resort to deception and the use of brute and superior force to get what they want. What is more despicable is when government officials who are supposed to protect and serve the citizens, connive with big business to oppress them on account of the big money involved.

Said the MSBF: “Ayala Land Inc. does not want to wait for the MSBF usufruct to expire in 14 years. To wait would upset its development timetable and, worse, will increase the development cost. This explains why QC officials, instead of using the circuitous legal routes, are resorting to shortcuts and force and grave abuse of authority to grab the MSBF Environment Center and deliver it to ALI. The rewards for doing so must be really big.”

But is having a central business district in the North Triangle area a good idea?

No. It is a very bad idea because of several reasons.

• The North Triangle is the last green lung left in Quezon City, in fact in the whole Metro Manila. A metropolis this big should have a park as big as Central Park in New York. All the big cities of the world have parks of similar sizes. Metro Manila has none. All it has is the relatively small Rizal Park in Manila. Quezon City has only the minuscule Quezon Circle—and look what they are doing to it. It is rapidly being transformed from a park with grass, plants and trees into a jumble of many structures. It is ceasing to be a park and becoming another concrete jungle.

• Parks are important in any city. Aside from providing oxygen to replace the pollution that any city exudes, it provides the people relief from the concrete which imprisons them. Parks provide the people with open space, fresh air, green plants, birds and butterflies—an area where they can relax and play.

• Other cities of the world buy private lots for conversion into parks. In the Philippines, the government itself sells open spaces to developers to be converted into more concrete jungles.

• With a business center at the North Triangle, imagine the thousands of vehicles that it would attract, the traffic jams that they would create, and the amount of pollution that they would spew into the atmosphere. Right now, traffic jams there are already horrendous—and there is no business district yet. The Elliptical Road around the Quezon Memorial Park, as well as all the streets radiating from it and neighboring streets, are packed with vehicles. With a business center, the traffic gridlock would be many times worse. Residents would be marooned inside and outside their homes, unable to get out in the morning and go home in the evening. That is why residents oppose a business center there. Ayala cannot solve the traffic jams at its Ayala Center in Makati; it has no traffic plans for the planned business center.

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• Then there is the greed and selfishness of it all. If they succeed in grabbing the MSBF gardens, they will next try to grab the Ninoy Aquino Nature Center, then the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and its golf course, then the Philippine Children’s Hospital compound, and, perhaps, other parts of the University of the Philippines’ Diliman campus. Ayala has already succeeded in getting UP’s Commonwealth Avenue campus and its high school campus on Katipunan Avenue. Success there had obviously emboldened Ayala.

• Then there is the issue of environmental protection and conservation. The development of the MSBF’s seven-hectare area into a mixed-use complex—which involves more giant shopping malls and other huge multistory buildings—is contrary to environmental protection and conservation. It has been recognized that malls are among the biggest consumers of energy and water and a big producer of waste.

• It has become clear that the human right to environmental conservation is being sacrificed by QC officials, in cahoots with big business, on the altar of unbridled consumerism, all in the name of some twisted concept of economic progress.

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TAGS: business center, column, manila seedling bank foundation, mbsf, neal h. cruz, north triangle, quezon city government, takeover
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