Restoring lost glory
HIDDEN AGENDA (The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2014 - 12:00am

Development and conservation can go hand in hand after all.

Property developers have been in the limelight lately for their alleged disregard of heritage conservation. It is being claimed that developers have been pursuing their business to the prejudice of the country’s heritage and historical landmarks.

But the fact is there are those in the real estate sector who are making Manila more business-friendly, but at the same time taking heritage conservation seriously.

Anchor Land Holdings is one good example. The company is developing Admiral Hotel, one of Manila’s most iconic buildings which used to be the hotel of choice of the country’s elite, into the Philippines’ first five-star boutique hotel.

Unfortunately, controversy surrounded the first phase of its redevelopment efforts and temporarily halted the project. A group of heritage conservationists was able to convince one of the country’s cultural agencies to issue a cease-and-desist order despite an earlier declaration that the agency had no knowledge of any historic event that had happened in the hotel.

Anchor Land maintains that the company’s commitment will always rest on ensuring they only deliver structures that conserve life and safety, which explains how the developer took the only responsible decision available: to rebuild the Admiral Hotel.

Anchor Land believes that the hotel’s prestige lies in its heritage. However, such a legacy will be for naught if the structural integrity of its premises would not be restored.

Anchor Land sought the help of the Accor Group, the biggest and most acclaimed hotel operator in Europe, to manage the hotel operations for its latest project—the Admiral Boutique Hotel—and help the company fulfill its goal of reviving the glory of one of Manila’s most celebrated heritage structures.

Once finished, the eight-story Admiral Boutique Hotel will also proudly carry the distinction of being the first hotel establishment in the Philippines to be part of Accor’s prestigious MGallery collection of high-end hotels, a milestone few other hotel establishments in the world get to claim.

Anchor Land is looking to officially unveil the project in time for the 75th heritage anniversary of the Admiral Hotel in 2016, which is why the company is working doubly hard to have operational restrictions lifted on the property so it can proceed to bringing the Admiral Hotel back to life.

A good chunk of Anchor Land’s existing and future projects are primarily based in Manila, a clear indication of the kind of confidence the company has in the city. The developer continues to champion its efforts towards urban regeneration for the city, revitalizing areas like Binondo and Malate with key residential and integrated projects to help sustain local economic development.

Anchor Land has transformed Chinatown with the introduction of its maiden project in Binondo, the Lee Tower. The 33-story residential development has blended perfectly with the rich heritage and bustling business environment of Binondo, offering a host of luxurious amenities and facilities to complement the dynamic lifestyle inherent to the people of modern Chinatown. Apart from this, Anchor Land also introduced the Mandarin Square and Wharton Parksuites, two well-designed, high-rise residential towers that transformed the Binondo skyline.

Among the company’s pioneering projects within Binondo are the 39-story Princeview Parksuites, a towering residential development sitting at the heart of Manila’s commercial district; Oxford Parksuites, the company’s learning-focused development within the so-called “Chinese School Belt;” and the 56-story Anchor Skysuites, the tallest building not just in Manila Chinatown but in all Chinatowns worldwide.

Abusive boss?

The Philippines is facing a power crisis next year and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) has been tasked by the Department of Energy to engage in talks with power generators to put up the additional capacity by summer next year.

PSALM, for those not in the know, is the agency now handling the assets and liabilities of National Power Corp. PSALM is led by its president Emmanuel Ledesma Jr., who was appointed in 2010.

PSALM’s role in the looming power crisis is critical because it is now in charge of the new capacities that will come in once Congress allows government to contract additional capacity.

While the numbers vary, Luzon may need more than 300 MW of additional capacity by summer next year.

There are reports that PSALM is already in talks with at least four foreign suppliers to put up the generating capacity next year and although Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla has assured that power rates will not go up significantly, there is a need to make sure  no sweetheart deals are signed in line with the government’s thrust of Daang Matuwid.

Perhaps Petilla should also seriously look into the allegations of PSALM employees who have lost confidence in Ledesma.

Over 100 employees of PSALM have signed a petition, submitted to the PSALM board co-chaired by Petilla, calling for Ledesma’s removal from office.

These employees noted in their 20-page petition that Ledesma engaged in transactions which are grossly disadvantageous to the government, lacked sound business principles and judgement, did not comply with PSALM’ s Manuals of Approvals and established rules and regulations, inefficient, has poor leadership skills, among others.

According to the employees, Ledesma practices a self-imposed four-day work week and worse, he distrusts employees not hand-picked by him.  It is alleged that he shouts at employees and even hurls invectives, causing some to resign.

The employees further alleged that Ledesma has engaged in questionable transactions disadvantageous to the government such as the privatization of the Sucat decommissioned power plant,  procurement for the generator unit of the Agus 6 hydro plant, privatization of the Naga complex, among others.

The employees have raised the matter to the Governance Commission for GOCCs but the PSALM board has not acted on the petition. With all the talk of good governance and Daang Matuwid under the Aquino administration, the PSALM board has not acted on the petition to date.

Petilla has said he wants more proof but what more does he need? Or is there something to this that more than meets the eye?

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