An Englishman In Isabela Blog #114 – Ready To Fence But No Permit

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yes, we’re ready to fence our perimeter. All the pre-fabricated molds for the posts are ready together with the internal steel frame. But, as usual, we are waiting for the city engineer to apply the remaining signature to the fence permit. The question has been asked, can we hire a digger to start the trenchwork even though we don’t have the permit yet. We think the answer is no, because it would still constitute some kind of construction activity even though we won’t actually be pouring any concrete. We are not keen on asking the city engineer for permission to dig the trench because we remember what happened with the building permit. It is best not to ask any favour or dispensation with these officials. Even though they must be aware of the penalties they could incur under the republic act 9485, some are still prepared to take a chance.
If the fence permit is not issued next week we will take up the matter with the Patul barangay captain and ask him to put a call into the mayor’s office as it will be two weeks on Monday since a young engineer contact we have in the city engineer’s department prepared the fence plan and submitted the application for us together with our supporting documentation. By last Thursday he told us that he had obtained two of the three signatures required and the last he hoped to get on Friday. There was no text message on Friday so we assume he was unsuccessful.
Update 16 February: It is now over two weeks since our fencing permit application was submitted. We received a text from our contact to say that the city engineer wanted a meeting with us. He implied there was something wrong with the building permits. We called in yesterday afternoon and challenged him as he was leaving the office, however, he asked us to return this morning between 8 and 9am. We sat for over an hour in the reception area and he didn’t appear so we left saying we had an appointment with our lawyer and could they direct us to the mayor’s office. Later around 10.30 we received a text to say that the city engineer was now available but we refused to have any further meetings with him. We hold two signed building permits and we know that there is nothing wrong with our fencing permit application as we were shown the file by our contact while we were in the engineer’s department and everything is ready except the city engineer’s final signature. Even the fee to be paid has been calculated. There is therefore nothing to discuss. If necessary we will arrange for our lawyer to meet with the city engineer to discuss any issues he has with the fencing application but we hope the barangay route will make this unnecessary.
We visited the barangay captain as planned and explained the situation. He we livid. As far as he is concerned we have a perfect right to protect our property and he has already issued the barangay fencing permit. He said he would take it up with the mayor and assured us we should proceed with fence construction and advise him if anyone from the city engineer’s office attempted to stop it. As an expression of our appreciation we asked if there were any projects with which we could help. We will therefore be providing 400 hollow blocks so they can build a chapel in the yard outside the barangay hall. This is for residents of Patul who do not have space to hold a wake in their own house. We also promised to donate our air conditioning unit when we leave our rented house as we are having split wall mounted units in our new home.
Which reminds me, I must do a special blog about Patul barangay hall. It almost brought tears to my eyes when I saw the number of different ways in which they help support their local community. Talk about caring, these guys deserve an award!
On Friday we received the bids from Northcon for the sub-projects such as the remaining backfill and the driveway. Thankfully these days we are far more aware local pricing so we could see immediately that the bids were far to high. It puts Northcon out of contention altogether and we will therefore award these pieces of work to local contractors who we know by reputation are reliable. A swimming pool is the one project which we will continue to discuss with Northcon. We need to have a better understanding of the plan which supports their bid and we lack sufficient detail at present to make a judgement. If this information is not forthcoming or we feel that the price is still excessive, that again will be awarded elsewhere. A pool requires special engineering skills but surprise, surprise, we have actually found a local contractor who has constructed a large public pool and, according to a family contact, done an extremely good job.
Unlike the major currencies, the Philippines peso has appreciated so much that it is beginning to undermine these kinds of decision and many potential customers will defer building their dreamhome here until the fx rates improve. Manila-based companies tend to charge more but you would still expect them to be somewhere in the same ballpark pricewise, especially as they in fact use a lot of local labour and very few Manila-based employees.