Safety, vital concerns choking up Pinewoods

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Baguio City have worthily earned a world-renowned safe tourist stamp from a global standard organization, but an enviably serene community thriving at the city’s edge seems on the verge of serious security concerns.

For 73 residents of the plush Pinewoods subdivision which was built and developed by a publicly listed land developer into a golf course cum residential country estate, it’s just a matter of time when safety becomes a critical issue. Even now, their homeowners association has been raising every opportunity for Sta. Lucia Realty Development Corporation to acknowledge this gnawing concern.

Three weeks ago, matters came to a head when the RS Property Management Company, reportedly ensconced in the Pinewoods subdivision to run security and maintenance services, announced acceptance of the decision of Pinewoods homeowners group to end its 15-year service agreement that it had forged with a predecessor association organized by SLRDC.

In 2019, the currently operating Pinewoods homeowners corporation took over from that moribund ragtag group in 2006. Now fully organized and duly recognized by government regulatory agencies, its Board terminated the service contract with RSPM, after taking stock of a policy guidance handed down by Department of Human Settlements and Urban Services that “land developers are solely responsible for security and maintenance, without lawful authority to assess, collect and receive payments from residents for such services to be provided.”

The contract termination drew immediate response. Initially, RSPM scaled down security operations to critical numbers in the last two weeks, reducing the security personnel manning entry gates that rendered subdivision residents vulnerable to serious threats.

Soon after, the property management company put up streamer notices on the stoppage of payment services to the security agency serving the subdivision and other essential maintenance activities.

“It is worrisome when security personnel manning subdivision gates were suddenly reduced and their work hours increased to 12 a day, limiting their efficiency levels considerably. Security has become an hourly and daily concern. Residents have expressed alarm over the entry of unauthorised visitors at night, especially in the wee hours,” the Pinewoods homeowners group bewailed, noting that the posted notices did not even indicate what body would do the vital functions.

Since then, residents have noted that vacant lots have remained unkempt and ill-maintained, the untrimmed grasses rising into thickening humps. “The untended grasses have grown so tall, enough to shelter unscrupulous intruders just waiting to commit acts against life and property,” a resident remarked, citing the almost a month incidents two years back.

“We have complained to SLRDC intermittently on these security and maintenance issues, asserting that pending completion of development commitments, it remains their sole responsibility to make the subdivision safe, secured, and well-maintained,” the association’s secretariat stated, “but seemingly to no avail.”

“Not a single formal reply has been received to address and ease our concerns,” the PHOA secretariat added, “except for verbal assurances conveyed by the company village administrators that the land developer was weighing down all possibilities, in recognition of what subdivision residents deserve to be served for their collective community needs.

Three days ago, the homeowners group complained directly to the developer’s top level officials “on a note of grave concern over the underserved needs of the subdivision that has resulted to basic neglect of even the most basic maintenance services.”

“Security and maintenance remain your company’s sole responsibility as the subdivision’s land developer, until the management and administration functions are fully transferred to the homeowners,” the letter stated.

In these troubling times, when health safety is primordial in every community, the homeowners’ plea resonates with urgency, for a responsive security service provider assigned by a responsible land developer.

How long shall the 73 residents of this thriving community at the eastern edge of Baguio remain hostaged by security and maintenance concerns? None of the homeowners officials would hazard a guess, although their Board remains upbeat that the developer will soon realize the need for immediate action.

For a community founded on a vision of serenity unequalled anywhere else, Pinewoods may seem not to be living up to the standards set when the dream of the mid-nineties propelled breath-taking landscapes that induce a lifetime of sunset serenity.

Quoting from a resident, “We who live here invested so much of hard-earned resources, believing that the envisioned community would be a safe haven where residents have the best opportunity for a life of serenity and peace enjoyable in a lifetime.”

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