Villagers cleaning up the rubble of the illegal demolition ordered by the St. James the Great Parish Foundation
Culture Spotlight

Southern discomfort: Trouble brews in Ayala Alabang as Church Foundation builds events center

A lack of transparency in the construction of an events center by the St. James the Great Parish Foundation leads the Ayala Alabang Community to search for the truth and bring out the legalese.
ANCX Staff | Oct 23 2018

There’s trouble brewing in one of the most exclusive villages in Manila. Residents of Ayala Alabang Village are protesting the construction of a proposed Community and Formation Center by St. James the Great Parish Foundation, which is set to be constructed inside Ayala Alabang Village. The village, one of the country’s most exclusive gated communities is known for wide stretches of land, lush, shady trees, and an encompassing sense of quiet—elements which sold the property to its residents, and which any new development puts under threat.

The property on which the church stands was donated by Ayala Land Inc. in 1992. The foundation proposes to build the two hundred ten million peso (Php 210,000,000) center complete with a parking garage in front of the St. James Church. Residents who live across the foundation’s property object to further expansions of the church, given not just the congestion, but the noise, and heavy parking problems such developments would bring.

To pave the way for the construction, the foundation has already demolished the church parking lot, which included an idyllic courtyard. Testimonies from residents reveal that the demolition was done secretly and on the sly; still others contend that the new events place is a money-making venture for the foundation—a venue to hold weddings and other events in, and not a purported “formation center” made to form the spirituality of devotees of the church.

Many of these residents have gathered together to form Group of Residents Against Commercial Expansion (GRACE). In a letter to the Mayor of Muntinlupa, Mayor Jaime R. Fresnedi, GRACE representative Paul Patrick M. Carague pointed out the foundation’s civil code violations. The most important one being that in preparation for the expansion project, the foundation has “proceeded to remove existing parking lots at the proposed project site,” which has resulted in severe traffic and congestion problems, and which goes in direct violation of Article 694 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. Apart from this, the removal of parking lots in front of the church violates stipulations in the Deed of Restrictions, Zoning Ordinances of the City of Muntinlupa, and the National Building Code of the Philippines. A Stop Work Notice was issued on September 10, 2018.
The stop work notice issued by Mr. Ruben Baes, Chairman of Barangay Ayala Alabang. Photo courtesy of Mr. Paul Patrick M. Carague

Apart from its existing violations, there is also the Notice of Violation given to the St. James Parish Church when the latter was inspected by representatives of Muntinlupa City last October 8, 2018. The Church began demolishing their parking lot without a building permit; there was also a failure to post Building Permit Construction Information Signs. The Church was found to be non-compliant when it came to the work stoppage order for demolition. The Notice was given by Chief Inspector Leonilo E. Teofisto and representatives of the Church refused to sign the document.

Notice of violation issued to the foundation by the City of Muntinlupa. Photo courtesy of Mr. Paul Patrick M. Carague
The courtyard and parking lot of St. James the Great before demolition. @aaaaaamerica on Instagram

These events have brought to light bigger questions: Why did a demolition transpire without all the necessary permits? And why weren’t residents properly involved or apprised of the new construction?

What happens next remains to be seen, but for the time being, this non-transparent expansion plan is a mounting concern among residents, and leaves the foundation urgent questions to answer.

Even kids joined the village’s clean-up effort, in a show of support for the entire community. Photo courtesy of Ms. Ditas Antenor