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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Vega Baja residents protest construction of telecommunications tower

Vega Baja residents said the karst area proposed forthe construction of a cell tower is protected by local law as well as the Federal Endangered Species Act, as it is the habitat of the Puerto Rican boa and the concho toad.

By John McPhaul

Faced with what they consider the worst gift they could have received at Christmas, residents of the El Rosario and Alturas urbanizations of Vega Baja held a demonstration in their community on Monday opposing the construction of a telecommunications tower by the company QMC Telecom LLC in the residential area.

On Dec. 19, residents received notification that the Office of Permits Management (OGPe by its Spanish acronym) had granted a permit to build the antenna tower in a karst area of the aforementioned neighborhoods.

“The OGPe has decided to take away our community’s peace of mind by granting a building permit to a company that intends to install a telecommunications antenna in a karst that is located in the very heart of the urbanizations El Rosario and Alturas de Vega Baja,” said Ruth Vázquez, a resident and spokesperson for the No to the Antenna in Urbanizations El Rosario and Alturas Committee. “This construction will be only steps away from 66 residences and families that will be directly and seriously affected by this work.”

Vázquez noted that, according to documented evidence, on Dec. 9, 2021 the company QMC Telecom LLC filed a construction permit application with the OGPe for the construction of a telecommunications facility to be used for the co-location of companies providing cellular service.

The construction was to be done on a piece of karst land that, in addition to being a small forested area for the community, is protected as a natural resource by Law 292 of 1999 in addition to Law 170 of Aug. 12, 1998 and the federal Endangered Species Act, as it is the habitat of the Puerto Rican boa and the concho toad.

Residents of both urbanizations began to receive notification of the construction of the cell tower in the area on Dec. 16, 2021, but according to the protesters, and contrary to what was expressed in an affidavit by the QMC company, to date, there are residents who have not received official notification of construction.

“This in itself is a violation because one of the requirements for the granting of permits is to have notified each of the residents of the proposal of construction,” Vázquez said.

On Dec. 27, 2021, the community submitted a request for intervention to OGPe to stop the continuity of the project, and the agency declared requested intervention “valid.” Some of the arguments outlined by residents are that there are residences within a radius of 100 meters from the center of the tower. Also, there are antennas less than a mile away from the proposed project, the land is part of the karst zone and is the habitat of endangered species, and all endorsements and permits obtained for the OMC-160 El Rosario project were obtained through the Joint Regulations of 2020, which was declared null.

“All the arguments we have presented against the construction of this antenna were presented before the OGPe,” Vázquez said. “The construction of this illegal antenna threatens natural resources and the environment, and puts at risk the health and life of all residents. It is regrettable that permits continue to be granted to these companies who have no respect for the environment or for life. We will remain firm and in opposition to this construction because it is our quality of life that is at stake.”

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