MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday took a swipe anew at the U.S., which used to run the Manila Army and Navy Club.
During the launch of the Rizal Park Hotel, Duterte commended the owners of the hotel for the restoration work.
"The American-owned Army and Navy Club, it's now so beautiful, much may be prettier than the original one," he said.
"The revival and restoration of this iconic and historical landmark are the manifestations of our common desire to promote and preserve our vibrant culture and rich history," he added.
"What is very consoling is that all of the American properties are already in the hands of the Chinese," he said. "Very good."
The remark elicited laughter from the audience who attended the launch.
He said the cost of restoring a building is more expensive than building a new one, and the restoration of the facility shows the owners' deep respect for history.
"By restoring the building's former grandeur, we are not only preserving a piece of our history but we are also embracing a clear national identity," he said.
The chairman of the hotel is Simon L. Paz, a Filipino-Chinese businessman.
According to the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the hotel stands on the same spot where the Manila Army and Navy Club once stood in 1898, then the center of Manila's social life.
In a series of tweets, historian Manolo Quezon said that up until World War II, Filipinos were not allowed to enter the Army and Navy Club, which was for the exclusive use of U.S. military personnel and civilians.
Quezon suggests calling the Army and Navy Club as the "center of American military's social life instead."
Rizal Park Hotel figured in a recent controversy when it organized a clean-up drive on Manila Bay and invited Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.
However, prior to the clean-up, an ABS-CBN News team caught on video a woman ordering trash to be thrown to Manila Bay to be picked-up by Mayor Estrada and company. Two divers were seen ensuring the trash floated towards Estrada's boat. The woman said it was for photo purposes.
Estrada denied having anything to do with the throwing of trash and the clean-up.