Cebu City Council revokes special permits for Globe, Sun towers
WILL TOWERS GO?
Tears of joy were shed by 44-year-old Cristina Baldomar, who has been battling breast cancer.
The Cebu City Council yesterday approved a resolution to revoke special permits issued by the city to Globe Telecom and Sun Cellular which each has a cell site tower in sitio Calvary Hills, barangay Apas, Cebu City.
The council resolution cited its desire “to promote health” and to protect the life and well-being of residents of sitio Calvary Hills.
“Two years na mig nag fight ana. Syempre, nalipay gyud mi kay nipasalig na ang council (We’ve been fighting for this for two years. Of course, we’re happy because there’s an assurance from the council),” said Baldomar.
The stay-home mother, who’s undergoing chemotherapy for Stage 3-B cancer, is part of a tight group of Calvary Hills residents who believe exposure to radiation from the two telco towers has caused an “increasing number of cancer victims in the area.”
“I can’t see any other reason. No one else in my family or relatives has cancer,” she said in Cebuano.
Baldomar, who has been living in the area for over 20 years, was with a group of Calvary Hills neighbors who attended the council session to show their support. Her husband drives a jeepney. They have three children.
Both telcos are expected to contest the resolution. Globe and Sun Cellular have repeatedly denied in public forums that radio frequency emissions pose a risk to human health as no scientific study has shown a direct link to cancer.
“The misconception that cell sites can cause cancer is largely urban myth,” said Froilan Castelo, chief legal officer of Globe Telecom in a statement. (Read their full statement on the this page.)
It’s up to Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to actually revoke the special permits.
He said he would have to carefully review the matter first.
“If there’s no cell site, there’s no connection. Let’s look at the bottom line, what is the motive?” he told reporters.
Rama noted that complaining residents didn’t visit him or ask his help although he read about their complaint in the newspapers.
The move to revoke the permits for the two cell site towers was pushed by Councilor Noel Wenceslao in yesterday’s regular council session.
He said he wanted the towers removed in two months.
Globe’s tower was constructed in 2000 while Sun Cellular’s tower was up in 2004. The site is located in a residential area.
The resolution cited the complaint of Calvary Hills’ residents that there was no public consultation or consent given by residents before the towers were built, and that their right to “life and health” was violated.
The council also cited a Feb. 17, 2015 legal opinion of the City Attorney’s Office that power of the Sanggunian Panglungod to issue a Special Permit is regulatory in nature and carries with it the power to revoke as long as due process is observed.
A resolution of the Apas barangay council issued in 2014 confirmed that no actual public consultation or hearing was made before the towers were built, which is a violation of requirements of its special permit.
“The residents of Sitio Calvary Hills, Barangay Apas, consistently complain of sleepless nights, mental anxiety, paranoia and psychological restlessness due to uncertainty on their life and health, by reason of the existence of the cell towers of
Globe Telecom and Sun Cellular near to their residential houses,” read the resolution.
“Moreover, they insisted that there was no public hearing conducted not consent was given prior to the construction of the aforementioned cell towers. Thus, leads to the filing of the petition for eviction and/or relocation of Sun and Globe
Cell Towers, by the residents of Sitio Calvary Hills, with the Office of the the Barangay of Apas, as well as to the Cebu City Council,” it further read.
The City Council approved the special permits of Globe Telecom and SunCellular in June 7, 2000.
Under City Ordinance No. 1656, or the Revised Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cebu, the installation of radio transmitting stations or towers requires Special Permit from the Sangguniang Panlungsod upon recommendation of the Cebu City Zoning Board.
The City Legal Office already issued an opinion last February saying that there was no obstacle to reviewing the grant of the special permit.
“A resolution is temporary in nature. Thus, if the Sangguniang Panlungsod opts to consider the petition and review the grant of special permit to Globe and Sun companies, there is no legal impediment in doing so. To reiterate, the power to grant special permit and revoke the same is within the jurisdiction and sound judgment of the Honorable Sangguniang Panlungsod,” read the opinion.
Apas barangay captain Ramil Ayuman, who has been supporting the protesting residents since last year, said there have been at least 20 cancer-related deaths in the area since the operation of the cell site towers.
Five more have died this year alone, he said.
During a public hearing last year, the Department of Health (DOH) said radio frequency radiation from cell sites has not been proven to cause cancer.
“There is no conclusive evidence that exposure to radio frequency causes cancer,” said Agnette Peralta, director of the Bureau of Health Devices and Technology of the DOH central office in a public hearing.
She explained that the UK Health Protection Report of 2012 and the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority report were unable to conclude that radio frequency radiation coming from cell sites are cancer-causing.
So far, medical studies only proved that exposure to cell site radiation increases thermal or body heat, she said.
Dr. Porponio Lapa Jr., president of the Calvary Hills Apas Residents’ Organization (CHARO), welcomed the council’s support to their petition.
“We are more relieved of mental anguish. We will probably sleep soundly and peacefully at least within our area,” he told reporters yesterday.
Lapa and Ayuman accompanied around 30 of the residents to the session hall to show support for the council’s decision.
They wore yellow shirts that bore an image of a cell site tower in the universal design of a ban with a circle crossed with a diagonal line.
The words read “Calvary Hills Apas Residents’ Organization Against Radiation.”
“We are very happy with the council’s decision. They have been convinced that there is probable cause to revoke and we are happy that they revoked the permit,” said barangay captain Ayuman.
He said they will follow up when exactly the permits will be revoked and the towers will be removed. Ayuman he expected legal cases to be filed since they are going up against big companies.
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