[ Manila Bulletin Online ] January 20, 2009
By DEXTER A. SEE
Palace official asked city to make good its commitment
BAGUIO CITY — The Presidential Management Staff (PMS) of the Office of the President is disappointed over the snail-paced rehabilitation and upgrading of the former Diplomat Hotel here and its compound.
The hotel project was turned over on April 29, 2004 to the city government, which vowed to make it a tourist and recreation center.
Through a proclamation issued by President Arroyo, the city acquired at least 32,000 square meters of the 52,402-square-meter land occupied by the former Diplomat Hotel.
In a letter sent to Mayor Reinaldo A. Bautista Jr., PMS Director-General Cerge Remonde stated that since the facility was turned over to the city government, only R13 million had been spent for the rehabilitation of the parking area and perimeter fence of the hotel.
The Palace official reminded city officials that the R13 million allotted by the city government is way below the estimated rehabilitation cost of the facility which was earlier pegged at R87 million.
Remonde said the city government should make good its commitment to develop the area into a heritage-tourist facility in a five-year period, which started when it was turned over in 2004.
With the failure of the city government to undertake the development of the facility, the PMS chief is seeking an audience with the concerned city officials to discuss a proposal of the Baguio Historical and Mining Museum Foundation Inc. to develop the Dominican Hill property into a world-class mining museum.
The group, through chairperson Ambassador Delia Albert, wants the Diplomat Hill property to be converted into an interactive mining and historical museum that could be one of Baguio’s historical attractions during the city’s centennial celebration on Sept. 1, 2009.
City council Resolution No. 199-2996 reserves a portion of the Diplomat Hotel compound in the Dominican Hill for the Baguio Historical and Mining Museum Foundation.
Historically, the Sandiganbayan objected when the Diplomat property was ceded to the city government through a deed of conveyance signed PMS represented by then Secretary Ricardo Saludo, former mayor Bernardo M. Vergara representing the city, and the Sandiganbayan represented by then Presiding Justice Nenita Chico-Nazario.
To settle the issue, talks regarding property were held. The talks resulted in a swap involving the Diplomat Hotel and a city-owned property at Wright Park. The city then was bent on developing the century-old hotel into a revenue-generating facility.
At present, the Diplomat Hotel property is being used as a ghost-hunting area by students as well as location shooting for horror movies because of its weird ambiance, especially at night.
The Diplomat Hotel was devastated during the July 1990 killer earthquake. The city engineer was forced to declare the building as an abandoned property because of the heavy damage.