Breaktime: Rare Admiral | Inquirer Business

Breaktime: Rare Admiral

“Something’s gotta give!”

Actually, our rather rare but interesting story today involves an old structure in Manila once known as “Admiral Hotel,” which closed down in the 1990s and was left rotting away there for about 15 years now along the service road of Roxas Boulevard, a couple of buildings away from Quirino Avenue (near Hospital ng Maynila), which is not exactly a prime urban area.

It seems that government outfit NHCP, or the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, issued an order to stop what media called “demolition” of the “historic prewar structure,” which was the dilapidated former Admiral Hotel.


The problem was that the owner of the property, publicly listed Anchor Land (2013 revenues of P5 billion), already started the demolition work to build a new structure. Thus the NHCP forced Anchor Land to abandon the half-demolished jobsite—debris and all—threatening public safety.


From what I gathered, the government even prohibited Anchor Land from clearing the area of debris that, during this season of torrential rains, created—to put it mildly—some inconvenience to the establishments in the area and the general public.

So what now—something’s gotta give, right?

Not so fast, because it seems that the NHCP adamantly refused to resume work at the jobsite, seemingly careful of media backlash from some conservationist groups, which complained against the demolition as a violation of the law called National Cultural Heritage Act, or RA 10066, passed during the cute administration of Gloriaetta in 2009, pushed primarily by former Sen. Edgardo Angara.

In the same year 2009, or some five years ago, Anchor Land happened to acquire the Admiral Hotel property from the Lopez-Araneta family. With its sorry state of neglect for more than 12 years, the property already showed signs of ruin. Anchor Land thus planned to retrofit the entire structure, but it claimed that engineering studies showed the original building was—structurally—beyond salvage. With several beams and pillars supporting the structure already gone, the developer claimed that the building, as it was, could only compromise public safety.

In short—it was demolition time, to which the conservationist groups objected. While Anchor Land was in the thick of demolition, they lobbied hard with government outfits like the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, which in turn forced the NHCP to issue the stop order.

According to Anchor Land, its lawyers and planners already inquired with NHCP regarding the historical significance of the property. The commission informed the company that there was none. Thus, NHCP said the developer could consider the property for what the law called “adoptive re-use.”


It meant that, all right, Anchor Land could convert the hotel into other use—such as a gambling den or a girlie karaoke bar.

(By the way, the developer tied up with the internationally acclaimed group called Accor, which was the biggest hotel operator in Europe, precisely to rebuild the former Admiral Hotel into a world-class hotel, thus possibly starting the gentrification of that part of the city considered to be an urban eyesore. The developer claimed it wanted to build an eight-story “boutique” hotel as the first five-star of its kind in the country. Moreover, only a few hotels in the world could claim to be part of the Accor group’s high-end properties.)

Still, according to the law, Anchor Land would have to “conserve the site.”

On the other hand, the company also obtained from the Manila city government a construction permit for the property. It argued that the “retrofitting” repair method, apparently to regain the structural soundness of the building, could no longer be done, not if the property would have to conform to the government’s own safety rules.

No matter—basta—some conservationist groups reportedly pointed at the law, which was RA 10066, proclaiming that any property 50 years old and older should be considered “important cultural property.” And precisely, the former Admiral Hotel was reportedly built in 1939.

Question: Does it mean that even our old home in Caloocan City, built in the early 1960s, could no longer be touched now, since we have to “conserve the site,” according to the law?

Does it mean that the government can suddenly just stop any work to renovate or repair it or even tear it down?

How many 50-year-old structures in the entire country have been demolished in the past couple of years of construction boom, which surely violated the law?

Under the law, based on the rare but interesting story of the old abandoned Admiral Hotel, nobody could touch those structures, even if private citizens owned them, who also could invoke their ownership rights over their properties—was that it?

It seemed that the NHCP would need guidelines—well, some clear distinct no-room-for-interpretation guidelines—regarding what 50-year old structures could and could not be touched.

You see, the law would always be a moving target, because in 2020, for instance, all structures built before 1970 (i.e. 1969) would already be considered “important cultural properties.” In 2025, those built before 1975 would be covered by the ban. And so on and so forth in an unending list!

Because the law set a moving cut-off period (50 years old), the government could just stop their owners from doing anything with their own properties. To begin with, where did the cut-off age of 50 years old come from—perhaps out of thin air?

Ultimately the question would center on RA 10066: Did it really intend to conserve all those hundreds upon hundreds of 50-year-old structures, which would of course become thousands upon thousands in the future, or did it want the NHCP to write down some clear-cut guidelines?

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Really, something’s gotta give!

TAGS: Admiral Hotel, Culture, Laws

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