Museo Pambata: Are we having casino for a neighbor?


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – News first erupted in 2014 that the Army Navy Club, an abandoned early 20th century building, will be turned into a boutique hotel slated to open in 2016.

But will a casino also rise on the same site?

Early Wednesday morning, March 30, Museo Pambata president and CEO Nina Lim Yuson called attention to a "casino gaming facility" reportedly being built behind the Army Navy Club.

"Museo Pambata is seriously concerned that our neighbor, the former historical Army Navy Club, a heritage building leased by the City of Manila to Oceanville to put up a botique hotel, has not revealed that a Casino Gaming facility (subleased to Vanderwood and approved by PAGCOR) is being constructed behind the building, right next to the US Embassy wall," Yuson said in her Facebook post on Wednesday.

Yuson continued: "Isn't the City of Manila concerned? NCCA knows that a gaming casino in a heritage building violates the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. HELP NEEDED!"

This is not the first time she posted about the issue. On February 1, Yuson posted photos of the construction being done at the Army Navy Club, hoping "it doesn't turn into a casino."

"Both our buildings are owned by the City of Manila. Lately, I heard that there are plans being done to take over our site. Why is our local government so insensitive to the good value of historical sites and a children's museum?" her post read. 

Asked to clarify her post on Wednesday, Yuson told Rappler that illegaly sub-leasing to Vanderwood Management Corporation violates the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

In August 2015, the Philippine Star reported that the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is keeping its hands off the proposed casino, since the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has supervision over the Army Navy Club.

Reports then said the casino would start operating in 2017. Months later, preservationists expressed their concern over the alleged plan. (READ: PH cultural agencies in need of major overhaul?)

The NHCP in 2014 allowed developer Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corporation to turn the old building into a boutique hotel.

But in the same year, the building became the center of controversy after the NHCP itself issued a cease and desist order against the developer for tampering with its main building without the agency's permission.

The order was issued after Oceanville failed to wait for the commission's go signal before dismantling corroded metal window frames and other original parts of the main building. NHCP only gave permission for the dismantling of two annex buildings which are not part of the early 20th century original structure.

On Wednesday, Yuson said she has been taking steps on the issue since 2015, even writing the US Ambassador to the Philippines and NHCP chair Maria Serena Diokno. She also met groups concerned about heritage preservation. 

"It's time we have a campaign to stop this casino. We will start a signature campaign from children," she told Rappler in a text message.

The Army Navy Club was declared a national historical landmark in 1991. The Museo Pambata itself is also housed in a national historical landmark, the former Elks Club building. –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.