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At Large

Not just a parking problem

This is not just a parking problem,” asserts a resident of Ayala Alabang Village, one of the leading lights of the Group of Residents Against Commercialization and Expansion Inside Ayala Alabang Village, or GRACE.

What this is, asserts a small group representing the other 600 or so members of GRACE, is about the residents’ right to privacy, security, environmental integrity, convenience and the peace and quiet they had counted on when they bought their homes in a private subdivision, for which they paid (and continue to pay) premium prices and association dues.

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The issue revolves around the plan of St. James the Great Parish Foundation Inc., aka The Foundation, to build a “Formation and Worship Center” on the church’s grounds. To make room for the proposed building, the church’s courtyard, which even some members of GRACE concede had been a “beautiful” setting in front of the grandiose structure, had been torn up and excavated. Blue tarp walls encircle the area, hiding the sight from the public. Churchgoers can’t see what’s happened, since the vantage point has been filled with potted plants that hide the view.

In his “President’s Corner” in the latest issue of the AAVA News, homeowners’ association president Amador Bacani assured homeowners that the proposed center had undergone “major revisions” after residents expressed concern about the construction on church property.

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“The initial design was subject to much speculation that the two-story building will be the venue of grand social events, as it features three high-ceiling function rooms, which can be interconnected for a total capacity of 430 persons, and a spacious prefunction hall,” said Bacani.

The latest version of the building plans, he noted, would have a single-level ground floor with meeting rooms, but with a basement and a roof-deck that, the building proponents promise, will be allotted for parking.

To this, the members of GRACE react with much skepticism. The initial plans, they said, gave the impression that The Foundation was preparing not a “formation center” but an events venue for weddings and other grand occasions. Thus, they look askance at The Foundation’s insistence on retaining the basement floors and the roof-deck.

In an open letter published in the same issue of the village newsletter, Edwin Erni of GRACE stressed that they “are particularly concerned about The Foundation’s noncompliance with several building restrictions, and the resulting civil code violations which are negatively impacting the residents’ quality of life.”

Due to the dire lack of parking spaces, for instance, on Sundays, cars are forced to park in front of and around the houses in the immediate vicinity. On occasions like the recent concert by newly minted National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, parked cars were scattered around several blocks while traffic was backed up for as long as 30 minutes at the entrance gates.

For years, GRACE members recount, the annual bazaar held on church grounds likewise caused traffic congestion and a garbage and sanitary problem. Due to numerous complaints, the bazaar was suspended last year.

Indeed, it is “not just a traffic problem.” GRACE members recall a recent incident when a group of vehicles bearing PDEA agents entered Ayala Alabang and raided a home that had been rented out to suspected drug dealers. The agents, they said, were able to enter the otherwise secured village simply by claiming they were on their way to visit St. James the Great Parish.

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“The parish has become a most convenient and dangerous excuse for outsiders to enter Ayala Alabang,” comments one resident.

Some might view this as just an uppity concern of elitist families. But if The Foundation and the parish are so concerned about the welfare of the disadvantaged, why then are drivers of churchgoers not allowed to enter the church premises when nature calls, forcing them to do their business against the walls of neighboring homes? Aren’t their souls — and bladders — just as worthy of saving as those of supporters of the seemingly all-powerful Foundation?

rdavid@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: At Large, Ayala Alabang Village, grace, Group of Residents Against Commercialization and Expansion Inside Ayala Alabang Village, Rina Jimenez-David, St. James the Great Parish, subdivision security
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