Court stops 'green' school in traffic-cursed Katipunan Ave

MANILA, Philippines – A regional trial court has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against a planned "green" school to be built along traffic-congested Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.

In a copy of the TRO obtained by Rappler, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 226 concluded that the construction of the Multiple Intelligence International School (MIIS) will violate the revised zoning ordinance of the city. 

Here is a copy of the TRO:

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City building and zoning officials were ordered to stop any issuance of building permits or locational clearance to the school and to stop implementing any permits already issued.

The TRO, signed on Tuesday, March 24, is a victory for residents of Blue Ridge Subdivision who have fought hard since 2013 to stop the school from rising.

They reasoned that the school, which intends to accommodate 1,500 students, will only worsen the congested avenue – already home to 3 major schools: Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines Diliman, and Miriam College. 

In fact, the revised zoning ordinance specifically identified the MIIS property as an area where no additional schools are to be built, recognizing the contribution of such establishments to traffic.

The ordinance identifies the spot as part of the Katipunan Special Urban Development Zone where only small commercial establishments like bakeshops, coffee shops with at most 3 tables, drug stores, and banks are to be allowed. 

The special zone was created to "control physical development to prevent traffic congestion, deterioration of services, facilities and environment, and other problems affecting the general public," according to the revised zoning code.

That particular stretch of road is also traversed by large trucks coming from C5, posing danger to students if the MIIS campus is situated there, said concerned Blue Ridge residents.

'No ratification needed'

Planning and Development Officer Tomasito Cruz said he allowed the MIIS campus by saying the revised zoning code has not yet been ratified by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Without the ratification, the city government has to stick with the old zoning code which allows schools in the MIIS property, he told Rappler in a previous interview. 

But the court concluded that the revised zoning code does not need the rubber stamp of the two agencies and thus should be enforced at once. 

The new zoning ordinance, having been published in newspapers of general circulation in July 2013, took effect 15 days after publication, reads the court decision.

"After its publication, there is nothing more to be done for the zoning ordinance to take effect. It is highly unthinkable if an ordinance, duly enacted by the local legislative body and approved by the local chief executive, would be subject to the approval of the MMDA or HLURB for its effectivity or implementation," the decision read.

The court concluded that the two agencies are "mere coordinating agencies" whose mere inaction cannot overturn decisions made by local legislative bodies, in this case, the Quezon City Council that enacted the ordinance.

But the victory is only a "temporary relief," said Blue Ridge resident Sonia Mendoza.

The TRO will only be valid for 20 days after respondents receive their copy. The court set hearings on April 6 and April 7 to determine whether or not to make the prohibition permanent.

Mendoza said the Blue Ridge residents won't stop the fight. 

They have filed a case against Cruz and are planning to stage a rally. 

'Anti-business'

MIIS, meanwhile, has called the zoning classification of their property "anti-business and anti-progress." 

Its owner Joy Abaquin said the classification is unfair to business establishments that were not consulted when the zoning code was revised.

She also said in previous dialogues that the school would take pains to address the possible traffic the campus will cause.

They plan to construct multi-level drop-off and pick-up points and a large parking area. 

The school will also employ traffic enforcers and implement a staggered schedule of vehicle flow during rush hour. 

MIIS boasts of becoming the first LEED-certified school in the country. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally-recognized rating of environmental sustainability.

For now, it looks like the revised zoning code will be upheld. But ironically, it was a QC Councilor who sold the controversial space to MIIS in the first place.  

The Deed of Absolute Sale obtained by Rappler says that the lot was sold by Councilor Eufemio Lagumbay to MIIS for P100 million ($2.2 million) in September 2013, 6 months after the new zoning code was signed by the mayor. – Rappler.com

US$1 = P44.6

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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