Singapore's Fullerton eyes Philpost bldg

- Evelyn Macairan, -

MANILA, Philippines - The group behind the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore is reportedly in talks with the Philippine government for the transformation of the Manila Central Post Office into a first-class hotel.

Gemma Cruz Araneta, vice president of the city of Manila’s Historical and Heritage Commission, said the group is currently engaged in negotiations with the government represents the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore. (See Babe Romualdez column, B-3)

In 1997, Sino Land (Hongkong) Co. Ltd., a sister company of Far East Organization, acquired the Fullerton Building from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, spending close to $300 million in converting it into a hotel and building the two-story commercial complex One Fullerton. The hotel was officially opened on Jan. 1, 2001.

The Singapore hotel was also originally a general post office building, also known as the Fullerton Building, before its redevelopment into a luxury five-star hotel located at the Central Business District near the mouth of the Singapore River.

The historic Fullerton Building was named in honor of Robert Fullerton, Singapore’s governor from 1826 to 1829, and was used as a post office and even a hospital during the Second World War.

Philpost postmaster general Josie Dela Cruz yesterday announced that there are plans to convert the historic Philpost building in a bid to boost the tourism in the area that would cover Intramuros, Philpost, and Metropolitan Theater;

Dela Cruz said that the Aquino administration is studying the possibility of transforming the five-floors of the Philpost central office into a posh hotel in a bid to boost tourism in the country.

At the center of these grand plans is the 86-year-old neoclassical architecture designed Philpost building. The office building would reportedly serve as the core or catalyst of transformation.

“There is an order that came from the Executive Secretary (Paquito Ochoa Jr.) that created a committee headed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima to study the possibility of converting this area, wherein the center is our office, into a tourism development project,” Dela Cruz said.

Fullerton Hotel

She said that if the project pushes through, the Philpost building would not be demolished since the investors would be interested to conserve the building. “It is a heritage building...The attraction here is its history. It would be in their (investors) interest to protect and preserve it.”

Apart from Purisima, the other members of the committee would come from the city government of Manila and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

The committee has six months to submit their recommendations.

The planned tourism development does not only affect the Philpost but nearby historical landmarks as well such as Intramuros and the art-deco building Manila Metropolitan Theater. There is also the possibility that the change would positively spill over to the Binondo area and Escolta.

Coincidentally, the architect for both the Manila Metropolitan Theater and the Philpost was Juan Arellano.

Dela Cruz admitted that she is supportive of the project to convert the historical landmark building into hotel for practical reasons. “The building is too big for us and the maintenance cost (is too much) so it is no longer economical for us.”

The Philpost, a government-run corporation, has been losing money for many years because it could not compete with the private couriers and advance communication such as emails sent through computers and cellular phone textmessaging.

Despite their best efforts, “our situation now still deteriorating and we have difficulty rehabilitating,” she added.

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