Thursday, May 20, 2010

SMIC set to open Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated May 21, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - SM Investments Corp. (SMIC), the investment holding firm of the family of retail tycoon Henry Sy, said its 400-room Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu will open its doors to the public in the second half of the year to take advantage of the strong demand for high-end tourist accommodations in the Visayas.

In a statement, SMIC said the hotel project, under wholly-owned unit SM Hotels and Conventions Corp., will be managed by Carlson Hotels, one of the world’s leading hotel companies encompassing more than 1,060 hotels including Radisson, Country Inns & Suites By Carlson, Park Inn, Park Plaza and Regent.

The property is Carlson Hotels’ first Radisson Blu hotel in the Asia Pacific and will be positioned as Cebu’s leading international upscale hotel. It will feature 10 function rooms, two ballrooms, a spa and fitness center, restaurants, and the largest outdoor swimming pool in Cebu City.

“The upcoming opening of Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu further enhances SM’s range of tourism products and services. It is also our timely response to the country’s growing demand for first-rate accommodations for tourists and business travelers. Upon the hotel’s opening, its guests and patrons will be assured of world-class service and hospitality, which are strengthened by and benefit from the synergies created within the SM Group,” Elizabeth T. Sy, president of SM Hotels, said.

Situated on the city’s North Reclamation Area, Radisson Blu Hotel is envisioned to be one of Cebu’s leading international upscale hotels and the destination of choice for leisure activities, corporate events, conferences, weddings and other social gatherings.

The hotel is also ideally situated right beside the SM City Cebu shopping mall complex. With a gross floor area of 265,832 square meters over 700 tenants, more than 1,700 parking slots, and an average daily foot traffic of over 100,000, SM City Cebu is one of the leading and largest shopping malls in the region.

Last year, Cebu attracted more than 1.6 million foreign and domestic tourists, which is more than that of any other major Philippine tourist destination.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

ArthaLand future-proofs Arya Residences by design

by Mary Ann Ll. Reyes (The Philippine Star) Updated April 21, 2010 12:00 AM
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Being relatively new in the property development business is not easy, considering the intensity of competition and the financial muscle many of the players wield. Buyers are literally wined and dined by real estate companies, offering the best

possible deals, the choicest locations, and a host of project features and amenities. It has become a buyers’ market and every possible niche and market segment seems to be already adequately addressed.

But publicly listed ArthaLand Corporation is unfazed.

Incorporated as a propertie holding company in 1994, the company took on its new

name in early 2009 as it assumed its role in the property development industry.

Company beginnings

Armed with several valuable property, including three lots inside the Bonifacio Global

City, and others located in Tagaytay, Batangas, and Davao, ArthaLand needed somebody with vast experience in the real estate sector.

Angela de Villa-Lacson was the perfect choice to head the company. Her many years of working with premier real estate developer Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) gave her valuable insights into how a relatively small newcomer can create waves and establish its name and reputation in an industry dominated by giants.

Lacson, who concurrently headed ALI’s residential business group (Ayala Land

Premier and Community Innovations Inc., now Alveo Land and Avida) and Ayala Land Premier and is credited for growing ALI’s residential business, admits that there are pros and cons with working

with a smaller outfit.

“There are more challenges. With a smaller company, you can’t have the same organizational services. At ArthaLand where we have 30 staff members (which is about the size of

one sales division), we are all multi-tasking. There are advantages though to being smaller. We can make strategic decisions fast and the discussions that go into these decisions are done very quickly. When you are big, you tend to be less flexible. And of course, you need more approvals before you can arrive at a decision,” she said.

Another reason why Lacson, who has always worked with multinationals and big conglomerates since she started her professional life, decided to join ArthaLand is the openness of management to challenges and risks.

ArthaLand’s vision

ArthaLand derives its name from the Sanskrit word Artha which means purpose, knowledge, wealth. It is one of man’s ultimate goals in life along with love (Kama), righteousness (Dharma) and freedom (Moksha)

The company is a boutique developer focused in creating superior environments worthy of its stakeholders’ investment, esteem, and trust. It is dedicated to creating worldclass workspaces, homes and landscapes to deliver an enduring treasure to its customers: a better way of living, beginning today.

“By being a boutique developer, we are focused on creating thoughtfully designed developments. Each one is unique in its environment, architecture and positioning. We strive to be future proof by design to ensure the development remains relevant in the face of shifting market trends and demands long after the project has been delivered.” Lacson explained.

First salvo

ArthaLand’s tagline, Future Proof by Design, is best seen in its plans for its first project, Arya Residences.

To be built at one of the best locations inside the Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Arya

Residences is a top-end, mixed use, two-tower condominium development, that is set to change the rules of the game – being the first and only residential high-rise in the Philippines to be registered with the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy

and Environmental Design) program with a certification goal of gold.

ArthaLand’s decision to go green and sustainable for its project is largely a result of the

company’s overall vision to deliver sustainable developments. It is ArthaLand’s response to a shifting global trend towards healthier environments that enable people to live well, and live right.

Being green and sustainable has become a much used and abused battlecry and marketing pitch for many developers.

“A lot of developments are claiming to be green. This is probably brought about largely by landscaping. Of course, the more greens you have, the more carbon dioxide will be absorbed. It helps to have a lot of trees and plants. But that alone will not give you a LEED certification,” she pointed out.

ArthaLand opted to register with the LEED program and work towards a gold certification largely to ensure that its plans for Arya Residences are in line with world standards for sustainability and green buildings.

“We want to be validated. One of the most difficult certifications to secure is in residential development because, unlike office buildings, the measures are made when the project is fully operational with residents actually living in it ,” she said.

She pointed out that from a philosophical and business point of view, only a few know of ArthaLand. “We are a new company and we want to compete. We have to be different to be able to compete. If this means being truly green and sustainable, then we believe that is the way to go,” she said.

Lacson emphasized that they have always felt that they can always do things better. “We owe it to our buyers. After all, 80 to 90 percent of those who buy residential properties buy only once

during their lifetime. All their lifetime savings goes into buying these units. If choosing a home will affect their lives and we do it the wrong way, isn’t that cheating?” she said.

Arya Residences features

Arya’s two buildings will consist of 301 units and will have one, two and three-bedroom types. Construction is scheduled for this quarter (Q2 2010) while handover to clients will begin in the fourth quarter of 2013.

ArthaLand’s first project has green and sustainable features starting from the building’s design to the units’ features. Arya Residences will have a dual water piping system to recycle rain and grey water. Its units will have dual-flush toilet fixtures to save on water. The faucets have aerators, which make it seem like water is overflowing without being wasteful.

The project is the first residential development to opt in to the centralized water treatment facility of Bonifacio Global City. By putting in a dual-piping system within the building, it allows residents more efficient water usage with separate supply systems for potable and non-potable uses (i.e. garden irrigation, toilet flushing, etc.).

Meanwhile, the balconies have been designed to be just the right size to accommodate alfresco dining. But the balconies also provide shade for the unit below, reducing heat and giving protection from the rains. The units are also designed to accommodate generous light but at the same time shielding them from too much heat. Operable windows are customsized and allow for natural ventilation. The whole complex itself was designed to capture breezes and channel them to common and private spaces.

The two towers of Arya Residences are designed to foster a greener way of life without sacrificing aesthetics or comfort. To start, the buildings will take up only one-third of the 6,357-sq.m. property.

Arya’s towers are not identical. Tower One is a rectangular balconied structure, while Tower Two is elliptical. Both towers are designed to accommodate balconies and for the first tower, about 95 percent of the units will

have balconies.

The architects have positioned the buildings in such a way that east-west sun exposure is minimized, so the two buildings have most of their units facing north and south in order to reduce heat absorption. This leads to lower air-con usage and power consumption. With that orientation, the units will be awash in natural light and will allow the breeze from outside and the wind channeled between the two towers to cool the units.

Air-conditioning systems are also built into the units, to be chosen by ArthaLand, to ensure that the systems are environmentally sustainable and in line with the energy-saving conditions set by LEED.

To attain gold certification, Arya Residences must be able to achieve at least 40 percent savings in terms of water and 14 percent in energy. “At present, we are conducting energy modellings to be able to offer proof that the features that we have adopted indeed are going to meet the gold standards,” Lacson said.

Green can be affordable

Lacson explained that while Arya Residences is premium-priced, it is competitive within the category even with its LEED design features. “True, being green and sustainable has its costs and there is a cost premium to it, but we are absorbing these and not passing them on to our buyers. We are setting the standard for green condominium living in the country and hopefully, others will follow. Choosing to build a green and sustainable building will not only be good for our buyers but will also redound to the benefit of the country,” she said.

But not everything that is green and sustainable is practical. “Yes you can use solar panels as walls but it is not practical and the technology is too expensive to adopt. But even if it means more costs to us, we will do it, provided it is practical. In fact we are considering using a certain kind of glass that will reduce the absorption of heat and noise. It has to always be the right balance between cost and benefit because after all, we want to provide what is practical to our residents. she added.

Looking back and into the future

Lacson, who has been with the real estate development business for 12 years now, says a lot has changed.

“Before, condominium living wasn’t even accepted. Buying a house and lot was still preferred and townhouses were even preferred over condominiums,” she said.

But because people want to be closer to their workplace and to avoid traffic, city living, particularly in condominiums, became much sought after.

Lacson, with her extensive experience selling affordable to high-end living spaces, says ArthaLand is open to the idea of going into other segments of the market. “Aside from the properties that we own, we are also open to joint developments with landowners,” she revealed.

By opting to work towards LEED gold certification for its maiden project, Lacson said they hope that when the time comes that the Philippines adopts its own green standards, they would have more than complied and are prepared to connect with the programs.

She admits that it will take some time before the Philippines joins other countries like the United States, Australia and Singapore which have adopted their own green ratings systems, though there are efforts by some groups in the industry to come up with the country’s own set of standards and certification mechanism.

“It all depends on how serious the country will be in terms of sustainability.The support of government is needed for us to be truly green. But since we are still very far behind other countries, we at ArthaLand are just anticipating that in the future, we will have our own standards. At least, we have already done our part and we are ready. True, we can always retrofit our buildings, but the architecture will change completely and there will be too much disturbance for our residents, not to mention the additional cost that will be entailed from retrofitting. As our tagline says, we are future proof by design. We are ready for whatever future green standards we will adopt. In case we end up now having our own standards, at least our residents will immediately benefit from our green and sustainable buildings. Being green and sustainable will no longer be an effort for our residents, they simply have to live in our buildings,” Lacson stressed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Edgeworth highlights worth to Filipino clients

Written by Anjo Alimario / Researcher
Sunday, 02 May 2010 16:37

Edgeworth Properties Inc. (EPI) president Vaughan Minor trusts the Philippine market, which he describes as having a “mature and professional” clientele.

The Philippines is one of the first three countries in which Edgeworth established its Asian operations four years ago. Originally based in Cebu, EPI opened its Manila office early this week, which for the company was a milestone.

Asked why EPI chose the Philippines, Minor’s immediate reply was “Why not?”

“Our answer, simply, is that we believe in this country and its people who possess an uncommon concentration of wealth, talent and resources,” he said.

Minor admitted that the company’s first two years in the country was tough as Filipino clients proved to be “both savvy and shrewd.” But looking at the great potential, Minor considers the country as a market that cannot be ignored.

Proof to this is his strong assertion that the newly opened Manila office will soon rival its sister offices in Singapore and Malaysia in terms of market penetration and sales production.

“We have experienced and survived what may have been the most violent, quickest recession that I have ever seen in all my 40 years in business. And we’ve survived,” Minor said.

More than just survive, the company has grown and been transformed by the economic shock that hit the world.

Founded in 2006, Edgeworth began as a relatively simple real-estate development group with its own construction company, offering undivided interests in land and sales of housing lots.

“Our undivided interest [UDI] program offers our clients the opportunity to build their wealth with us as we unlock vast values from land,” Michael Yap, EPI vice president for Asia-Pacific, said.

This is done when EPI purchases land in booming Western Canada and offers these land plots for sale as UDI units, which clients then purchase. They will receive title deeds to their purchase.

“We encourage our clients to take part with us in this real-estate business,” Yap added.

EPI then works through the planning and engineering processes to ready the project for development. The company will purchase these UDI units back from the clients at attractive rates of 60 percent to 100 percent, depending on each project’s particular terms and conditions.

“Our UDI program offers strong returns backed up by land ownership, which reduces risk significantly,” Yap stressed.

EPI’s projects are concentrated in Alberta, in the western part of Canada. Minor is proud to say that Alberta boosts a robust and growing economy with over C$358.9 billion in provincial gross domestic product. It has the second-largest oil reserves in the world and has strong and sustained housing demand.

Upon testing the waters a few years ago, EPI’s scale of growth has undeniably given the company more than thrill of excitement. “Today, we have projects with a built-out value of between C$600 million and C$700 million, a reserve bank of nine valuable landholdings, and quite a few property-development projects including condominiums and commercial clusters,” Minor explained.

“Our clients in both Canada and Asia number about 10,000, and we also deal with some of Canada’s most established financial advisories,” he said.

The company has also added to its product portfolio mortgage-investment corporation options and project-specific investments. According to Minor, Edgeworth is thinking of making its entire range of products available to both the North American and Asian markets.

In addition, Edgeworth is fully committed to meet the highest standards of regulations such that creating access to all their products requires much work in regulatory compliance and procedures.

“We even have our own compliance officer in Canada to guide and advise us. Along with the 150-year-old law firm Davis Llp., our legal counsel and a panel of distinguished law firms in Asia, Edgeworth is working diligently to [make available] our asset-based investment products to our Asian offices,” he added.

This year marks a year of completion and transformation. “We are preparing for the very first exit of our Asian investors at the end of this year,” Minor said, adding that buyers of its Half Moon Lake Estates UDI will enjoy an 80-percent return on their UDI purchases.

This year, too, EPI will hand over three housing-lot program projects and one condominium project to its Canadian customers. This enables the company to engage in at least two more housing-lot projects and up to another two condominium projects in summer, said Minor.

“We will be launching a global product that will give investors an opportunity to take part in an asset-based program that has varying risk-return platforms. This is quite innovative and we’ve already had some interest from financial-investment institutions wanting to study us and our products a little more,” he added.

“The opening today of this beautiful Manila office is symbolic of Edgeworth as a whole. We’ve survived, we’re moving forward, and we believe that a bright future is ahead of us. And the Philippines and our team here contribute very much to our optimism of better things to come,” Minor said.

For the Manila site, Yap shared that EPI’s client base reflects a spectrum of individuals commonly referred to as PMEBs, short for professionals, managers, executives and businessmen.

“Our product and program appeal to the more savvy investor that has a more cosmopolitan outlook to life, wealth and investments. We appeal to persons who look to diversify their investment portfolio and are looking for more asset-based programs that are midterm in nature and with clearly spelt-out terms especially with regard to participation periods and returns,” Yap said.

In Photo: C. Vaughan Minor, FCA, president, Edgeworth Properties; Flora N. Naces-Mateo, country manager, Edgeworth Properties; and Michael Yap, vice president, Edgeworth Properties, at the ceremonial toast during the launching of Edgeworth Properties in Ortigas Center. (Nonoy Lacza)

Asian architecture

Written by Rizal Raoul Reyes
Sunday, 18 April 2010 16:55

DMCI Homes adopts Balinese design for East Raya Gardens

Asian architecture is becoming a popular design among developers because everybody seems to want to bring an Asian touch inside their homes.

DMCI Homes is quick to respond to the trend and it has been successful in taking Indonesian-inspired architecture in its East Raya Gardens project.

Alma Florendo, project director of DMCI Homes, said East Raya Gardens will have a Balinese-themed development that promises security, privacy, exclusivity and easy access to all essential establishments in the metropolis.

“East Raya Gardens will have seven wonderfully designed medium-rise buildings. The clustering of the structures and the spatial arrangement of each component was carefully designed for the convenience and comfort of residents,” Florendo said during the blessing of model units of East Raya Gardens.

To give owners the experience of a garden atmosphere, Florendo said all East Raya Gardens buildings will feature single-loaded corridors opening up to landscaped central-atrium indoor gardens, creating a refreshing and healthy environment for its residents. Aside from giving a refreshing sight inside the buildings, she said DMCI Homes made sure the design allows the entry of natural light and ventilation.

Aside from providing a pleasing aesthetic design to its projects, Florendo said DMCI Homes also gave priority to the safety aspect, which was brought to the limelight with the onslaught of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in the latter part of 2009. It would be recalled that the residential cities of Pasig, Marikina and Cainta particularly bore the brunt of the storm, its roads and subdivisions flooded to unimaginable levels and resulting in the loss of lives and properties.

With East Raya Gardens, Florendo said DMCI Homes, located in Pasig, was spared from severe flooding within its project site. A medium-density development sprawled on a 2.9-hectare prime property along Mercedes Avenue, its location was able to withstand the deluge of rising floodwaters.

Florendo said the resilience can be credited to the comprehensive project planning conducted by DMCI Homes. Furthermore, she said DMCI Homes carries a wealth of experience in construction from its parent company DMCI, one of the engineering and construction giants in the country.

DMCI Homes is the country’s first triple-A builder/developer with a wealth of experience backed by DMCI, which has been present for more than 50 years in the construction and development industry.

Through DMCI Homes’ property-management team, Florendo said DMCI Homes can deliver immediate assistance to each resident’s needs, such as general maintenance of common areas, utilities application and payment assistance, move-in assistance, realty-tax payment assistance, taxi call-in service, organization of community events and even newspaper-delivery service.

East Raya Gardens offers two-bedroom (56.5 and 64 sq m) and three-bedroom (88 sq m) units, each with a balcony and a service area on the roof deck. The efficiently laid-out two-bedroom unit is ideal for start-up families, while the more spacious three-bedroom unit is suitable for growing families who value space and comfort.

Victorian living

Written by Roderick L. Abad
Sunday, 18 April 2010 16:52
South Hampton brings the classic design concept to Santa Rosa, Laguna

Many Filipinos still dream of living a quiet life outside the bustling metropolis. It is for this reason that NorthPine Land Inc. (NLI) chose Santa Rosa City, Laguna, as the perfect location for its newest residential project—the South Hampton.

“This is the first Victorian-inspired community of its kind in the fast-emerging investment capital of South Luzon that offers modern convenience within reach of the middle class,” NLI general manager Rhoel Alberto Nolido told the BusinessMirror.

South Hampton is a 5-hectare house-and-lot residential project, with a novel European concept that stems from that of the country’s world-class theme park, Enchanted Kingdom, which is just a stone’s throw from its site.

With chic, elegant design, the project premise reflects the grandeur of the Victorian era or the classic England period. Named after queens in England such as Lady Jane, Mary, Ann and Elizabeth, the model houses showcase design elements that can easily be recognized and classified as truly Victorian—ornamental embellishments, porches with vertical railings, steep gables and fine adornments as roof accents, decorative braces and brackets, bay windows with shutters, and complex asymmetrical shapes. The colors—Morning Glow, Dove White, Evening Eclipse, Shark Loop and primary colors—exude the palette typical also of the Victorian style.

“So expect comfort living in style here,” Nolido said. “It’s a good project in line with our company’s mission to build a community wherein you can interact with your neighbors.”

Targeting the heads of start-up families aged 28 to 40 with middle-management positions planning to reside in an accessible suburban area, this residential project offers 200 two-story house and lots. Space-wise, lot cuts range from 120 to 150 sq m, while the floor areas range from 80 to 150 sq m, including the living area, balcony and the garage.

For entrepreneurs, the two-phase subdivision offers 20 lease-to-own commercial lots designed after shop houses, where they can reside and do business at the same time. Since it lies within the commercialized area of Santa Rosa, where various infrastructure developments are ongoing like the expansion of the South Luzon Expressway and the Skyway, land appreciation in the future is practically guaranteed.

“South Hampton is indeed a good choice for our buyers,” Nolido stressed. “It not only offers prime sophistication and luxury to future residents, but also a good investment opportunity for them.”

Superb amenities

True to its Victorian style, which became an architectural fashion starting in the late 1800s, the South Hampton residential project boasts of superb amenities that promise every resident a luxurious lifestyle.

Some of the project features are the clubhouse, children’s playground with minipark, adult and kiddie pool, basketball court, entrance gate, guardhouse and pedestrian gate, planting strips along main and service roads, elevated water tank, gazebo and cabanas.

“What’s nice about this project is that it’s a walkable subdivision. The amenities are centralized such that they are accessible and near the residents, thus, allowing them to just walk going there,” Nolido. “And it builds a community where everyone can just go to the gathering place in the middle. That, I think, is what makes South Hampton very unique.”

Since it’s a gated subdivision with a perimeter fence, security is always assured. Complementing this is the 24-hour security service provided by the usual two guards posted in the entrance gate and a roving one.

Unlike other similar residential projects, South Hampton boasts of a semiunderground electrical system wherein overhead cables and wirings can be seen only along the main road, while those on the secondary roads are installed underground.

“If you notice in other subdivisions, all the electrical wires are overhead, hanging on the post. With our semiunderground electrical-wiring system, it’s a lot better and nicer to look at, wherein you can fly kites if you want,” noted Nolido.

Another valuable feature is the drainage system to be built in front of South Hampton. This assures buyers that heavy rains won’t trigger serious flooding that would affect the whole subdivision. Nolido revealed that NLI has conducted a 30-year flood study to determine what the level of the road should be. He added that they would also provide a deep-well water system to ensure continuous supply of water.

Even after the development of the project, the property developer shall maintain its presence in the subdivision by organizing the home-owners’ association.

“We will do our best to be as involved as possible in terms of maintaining and running the [homeowners’] association. And we promise to always deliver on that,” said Nolido.

Ongoing development

TO date, land development of Phase 1 is running smoothly, according to Nolido. This, he said, indicates only that the completion of the road would be on time—projected by middle of this year—and also the commencement of the construction of houses by the third quarter.

“That’s one good thing about a house-and-lot project like us. We are in a sell-and-build mode, meaning we wait for the sale to come in and then we construct the houses,” he explained. “This assures our buyers that what they purchased from us are newly constructed and in good quality once turned over to them.”

Given the positive response to the project since its launch early last month, Nolido expressed optimism that NLI could meet its target of two years to sell out all their house-and-lot offerings.

“We will probably move to Phase 2 immediately because the response has been very good,” he pointed out. “So if land development [of Phase 1] will be finished by midyear, expect the first resident to be in by around second quarter of 2011.”

While the project is still in its land-development stage, NLI has already extended the project’s down-payment terms to 30 percent over 18 months (interest-free), and the balance is payable either through house or bank financing. Prices of model houses at South Hampton range from P3 million to P5 million.

As a customer-driven company, Nolido said that through the expanded payment conditions, NLI gives buyers ample time and means to meet their obligations.

“Our strength comes from both the company and our track record,” Nolido said, when asked why potential homeowners should trust the company and eventually consider living in South Hampton. “Our company is owned by four major shareholders: 40 percent is owned by Hong Kong Land, which is one of the top real-estate companies in Hong Kong; 20 percent by BDO; 20 percent by Metrobank; and 20 percent by San Miguel Properties. These are the titans in the [real estate] industry; therefore, they [the buyers] will be assured that the project will be completed.

“And given our other existing projects such as Lexington and Greenwoods, among others, where the quality of products is very good, our track record indeed speaks for itself. We are a real-estate developer that is after the high quality of our products. We’re not really mass producers. We try as much as we can to give the type of attention to each homeowner. This is because we believe that for buyers, this [the acquired property] is a major investment in their lives. So we have the responsibility to provide them with a good-quality shelter.”

REIT to boost devt of RP’s property market

Written by Rizal Raoul Reyes / Correspondent
Sunday, 11 April 2010 19:25
The passage of the real estate Investment Trust (REIT) will boost the development of the property market in the country, according to industry experts interviewed by the BusinessMirror.

Rex Drilon II, chief operating officer of Ortigas & Company Limited Partnership (OCLP), said the company is giving all-out support to the development not only of the REIT, but the development of the whole capital market. As far as the REIT is concerned, Drilon said the passage of the law will enable small savers to have other investment options to boost their savings funds.

“Even the big players may want to put some of their shopping centers and other recurring income properties under the REIT structure so that they can free up more funds for their other real-estate development projects. More projects, more employment. In the end, more taxes. Everybody wins,” he said.

Drilon pointed out the passage of the REIT Law is very appropriate because the country is playing catch-up with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) neighbors. For instance, Drilon said Hong Kong and Singapore have sophisticated REITs while Malaysia and Indonesia have started their own REITs.

“It is about time the Philippines has its own REIT Law. We have the advantage of learning from the lessons of the other countries that have adopted the REIT structure in the past,” he said.

In a related development, property management consulting company CB Richard
Ellis (CBRE) Philippines concurs with Drilon that REIT would boost the property market further.

“Record OFW remittances, ongoing government investment in infrastructure to support the growing tourism industry, and a strong consumer market create a good environment for REIT,” said CBRE chairman Rick Santos in a media statement.

Citing a study of the Gerson Lehrman Financial Research Group, the company said REITs in Asia has gone from five to 80 in five years. They also think that REITs have consistently performed well in both mature and emerging stock markets and that the Philippines would do well to follow the lead of other Asian countries.

“REITs allow individuals to participate in large-scale real-estate projects as small investors with the important advantage of liquidity—as shares can be quickly and easily sold. Opening themselves up to investors in this way eases the financial burden on developers and generates capital for new developments,” said CBRE also in a media statement.

An influx of foreign direct investment would be expected with the introduction of REITs.

“Many existing real-estate projects clearly generate a lot of revenue and foreign investors would certainly be interested in contributing to the Philippine capital markets through them,” said Santos.

CB Richard Ellis projects that the property market will see increased growth due to REITs within the next four years.

Drilon said that up to a certain extent, the REIT Law can provide a level playing field. Interestingly, smaller developers can form REITs and hope to entice investors to join in their projects.

However, Drilon said small and large investors will still look at the same fundamentals such as location, people behind the project and their track record, project feasibility and projected returns, among others.

Drilon pointed out the small players might be required to make their projects more attractive to the prospective trust/investors while the bigger players may have an easier time to attract new investors.

However, Drilon warned some unscrupulous property developers might just use the incentives covered by the REIT Law to skip tax payments. As a result, the government would emerge the biggest loser because of the impact on tax collection.

“The hope is that there will be a negligible number of these ‘carpetbaggers’ who will use the REIT structure to evade taxes rather than be a real contributor to development of the industry,” he said.

Sta. Lucia Land to continue focus on horizontal housing

Written by Rizal Raoul Reyes / Correspondent
Saturday, 08 May 2010 19:01

SANTA Lucia Land Inc. (SLLI) will be more focused on horizontal-housing projects as it remains the main source of its growth, according to a major official of the company.

“SLLI projects will be focused on horizontal developments, which have been the core business of the Sta. Lucia Group for the past 30 years or so. Horizontal development shall comprise 70 percent of our gross output, while 30 percent will be on vertical development and other businesses,” said SLLI corporate marketing director Michelle Robles in an e-mail interview with the BusinessMirror.

Robles also said SLLI will be very active in the provincial areas because of the scarcity of land in Metro Manila. Robles said SLLI is going to be aggressive in the medium-scale category because there is a continuing demand for such products primarily fueled by the spending of expatriate Filipinos who are looking for investments for their financial portfolio.

“Our projects will be focused on demands that are created in various parts of the country due to the business and population growth therein,” she said.

SLLI is involved in various property-development projects in areas such as residential estates, condominiums, golf and country clubs, resort and leisure, and commercial and retail.

To complement the horizontal-development projects, Robles said the company will embark on a redevelopment program on its commercial properties. She said developments will still be focused in major cities outside of Metro Manila and will include the Calamba, Cavite and Batangas areas. Robles said SLLI will also be active in the affordable-housing segment in response to the warm acceptance of the market last year.

“We expect to grow and sell this product which will complement our new developments, as well as our old subdivisions to fast-track business activities in all our projects,” she said.

In a related development, SLLI also said it is bullish on the vertical-property development, as its three projects are on full swing. These are the La Breza Tower in Quezon City, La Mirada at Residencia de Vistamar in Cebu and Splendido Taal Towers in Tagaytay.

“We are bringing our realty-development expertise to building residential condominium and condominium. Currently, our three vertical-property projects are right on track, and we are happy to see brisk sales,” said SLLI president Exequiel Robles in a media statement.

La Breza Tower, a 22-story luxury mixed-use development situated along Mother Ignacia Avenue in Quezon City, is expected to be completed in mid-2011.

He said SLLI is also excited on the sprawling Residencia de Vistamar on Mactan Island in Cebu. Designed for comfort and relaxation, this prime development is a perfect escape from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. SLLI expects to finish La Mirada also by mid-2011.

Meanwhile, the SLLI president said Splendido Taal Towers has a very good location, because this gives access to the best beaches of Nasugbu and Calatagan in Batangas, the famous dive sites of Anilao and Tagaytay’s entertainment area. The four-building condominium project also provides a view of the world-famous Taal Lake and Volcano.

Robles disclosed that SLLI has formed partnerships with W.V. Coscolluela & Associates and Songsong & Periquet Designs for architectural design and interior design, respectively.

With these three projects coming to reality within months of each other and with more condominium-type ventures in the planning stage, the company hopes to stir the vertical-property development industry.

“Santa Lucia Land projects have always been built in the foundation of excellence. We carry that same standpoint in every vertical-property development project we undertake,” he said.

Residential estates done by SLLI include Alta Vista de Subic, Alta Vista Residential Estate and Golf Country Club, Caliraya Spring Golf Marina, Costa Verde, Davao Riverfront, Eagle Ridge Golf and Residential Estate, Glenrose Park, Green Meadows, Greenwoods, Lakewood City, Metropoli Residenza Libis, Metropolis Green, Monte Verde Executive Village, Neopolitan Garden, Palm Coast Marina Bayside and Palma de Oro Residencias de San Fernando.

In the commercial and retail segment, SLLI has developed Palm Coast Marina Bayside, Rizal Technopark, Royale Tagaytay Estate and Santa Lucia East Mall, among others.

Santa Lucia Realty was incorporated in 1972 by members of the Robles-Santos family. Since then, SLR has since become one of the Philippines leading real-estate development companies. From 1972 to 2007, SLR has been engaged in the development of over 9,000 hectares of land through 177 development projects throughout the Philippines. Of these 177 projects, a total of 100 were completed as of December 31, 2007.

Mount Batulao: Providing a cool climbing experience

Saturday, 08 May 2010 19:02

In his post at the web site of Philippine Expats and Travel Blog, a blogger said climbing Mount Batulao is a cool thing to do because the “mountain is relatively small and has trails that are easy to climb, so it’s good for those who want to have their first climbing experience.”

Elucidating, he said completing the climb to Mount Batulao gives a “feeling of achievement and satisfaction.” For the blogger, the more important reason people trek to Mount Batulao is to have a taste of the breathtaking views of Tagaytay and the surrounding low-lying areas. He added that the cool breeze on top of the mountain gives a refreshing experience to the climbers after a laborious trek.

Through the years, Mount Batulao has grown popular not only as a mountaineering challenge but also as a camping site for student military trainees. During summertime, Manila-based mountaineers converged at the foot of this 1,050-meter mountain to climb it and savor the exhilarating views of the land, mountains and sea from atop.

“Looking down from the top of the mountain, one gets a sweeping view of the famous Taal Lake with the mouth of the volcano in it, the entire breadth and length of Batangas province, the two mountains of Pico de Loro and Mount Talamitam, and the South China Sea. It’s simply breathtaking!” a mountaineer said of his experience.

“Jump-off for Batulao starts at Evercrest, the golf course in the area, just a few kilometers away from Tagaytay. The climb usually lasts two hours or less, but if you wish to feel the cold breeze and warm your skin under the sun longer, then you can occasionally stop on benches installed along the trail, although the newer trail we took a few months ago offers none,” said

Along the way, you’ll pass by several inhabited areas before the trail leads you to rolling hills with a sparse incidence of nipa huts and the occasional drink stand ready to sell you ice-cold soft drinks or a refreshing dose of coconut juice, according to Ivan about Town.

Along the path, the mountaineer will encounter some camps located at strategic points of the shoulder of the mountain. Here, climbers are welcome to take a rest and take pictures with the campers.

At the end of the day, climbing Mount Batulao is a worthy undertaking because this allows you to appreciate the gifts given by Mother Nature.

With the development of Sandari Batulao, an 800-hectare mountainside township community, more and more people will learn to appreciate the beauty of Mount Batulao and its environment as this community gives an opportunity to commune with nature.

The strategic location of Sandari Batulao provides an opportunity for nonclimbers to enjoy the serenity of the environment. Having religious institutions around the area, visitors will also learn to develop a closer bonding with the Almighty.

Located at Km. 77, just a 10-minute drive from Metro Tagaytay along the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Tourism National Highway, Sandari Batulao is an hour-and-a-half drive from Makati via the South Luzon Expressway through Santa Rosa.

Explore and experience true mountainside living. Call 817-5876 locals 162/128 and 894-3019, or fax through 893-0046 or visit

Revival in demand for office space on the uptick

Written by Dennis D. Estopace / Reporter
Saturday, 08 May 2010 19:05

The revival in demand for office space in the region in the first quarter of the year is being reflected in the local uptick, defying even worries of political instability.

“Yes, it’s an internal momentum of the market,” Colliers International (Phils.) Inc. research manager Ramon Jose Aguirre said.

The BusinessMirror spoke to Aguirre after the company released a statement, citing that “a general stronger-than-expected pace of economic recovery in Asia-Pacific has led to a noticeable revival in demand for office space” in the first three months of the year.

“The markets were marked by increasingly positive sentiments resulting from the relaxed monetary measures adopted by various central governments, the ease of credit, and the sustained low interest rates,” the FirstService Corp. subsidiary said in a statement.

It quoted Colliers International Asia-Pacific region executive George McKay as saying this environment encourage many investors.

“A number of multinational corporations have been encouraged by the stronger-than-expected economic conditions to reactivate their real-estate plans, which had been largely put on hold right after the financial crisis hit,” said McKay, managing director of corporate services.

Aguirre concurred, saying that based on their experience, they already had 60 open inquiries on office space from locators.

“Before it was just 10. The new inquiries came from very few newcomers. Transactions, definitely, picked up in the first quarter,” Aguirre said.

He noted that the pickup in interest on office space is being driven by the business-process outsourcing industry.

“Apparently, the interest is high despite the external challenges, like the impact of the kinks as the US climbs out of recession and the upcoming national elections,” he added.

Aguirre said a decade ago, political instability was a factor in decisions of locators to establish operations in the Philippines. “It appears they have become used to doing business in such situation.”

Nonetheless, Aguirre said he “wouldn’t discount the effect of the crisis last year, since a lot held off on their investments and there was a lot of supply as developers overbuilt.”

Still, there’s a chunk of supply in the Makati Commercial and Business District (CBD), he said, that may have tempered its rental-rate levels. However, Aguirre said outside of the Makati CBD, there’s a noticeable increase in office rentals at an average of 5 percent.

“Last year, too, some of the developers offered concessions. But, right now, they’re withdrawing the incentives. They can charge x amount of rent compared with last year. Tables have turned,” he said.

The increase in office rent is seen, as Aguirre cited the Fort Bonifacio Global City’s Mckinley area as example.

Meanwhile, he said developers continue with their expansion, citing the SM Group’s construction of a second building at the Mall of Asia, which is mainly for BPO operations.

Colliers International said, “Overall, the leasing market in the region revived somewhat, with rentals edging up by 0.9-percent quarter-on-quarter in [Q1 2010]—the first-quarterly increase registered in the past one-and-a-half years.”

It added that “on the salesfront, investment demand for office properties remained strong, notwithstanding the continued compression of investment yields” in the first quarter.

“Local private investors continued to be one of the key groups of players,” Colliers said. The real-estate broker cited Hong Kong and China as examples of the market improvement at the regional level.

“Looking ahead, the demand for office real estate in the region continues to gather strength on the back of further economic growth expected over the next few years,” the company quoted McKay as saying.

Pag-IBIG Fund aims to lower national housing backlog

Banking & Finance
Written by Dennis D. Estopace / Reporter
Sunday, 09 May 2010 20:09

THE government has an ambitious target of bringing down by 87,000 units the 3.5-million housing backlog this year, the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) said.

Pag-IBIG chief executive Jaime A. Fabiaña said backlog could have been reduced more if the Land Registration Authority (LRA) had been computerized in the past, like it is now.

The $82-million computerized land-titling system links the LRA Central Registry of Deeds to registries of deeds nationally. “These could have delivered our increase in Q1[first quarter] this year.”

He said the number of Pag-IBIG housing loans in the first quarter grew only 6 percent compared with 10 percent last year. The full-year lending was up to 45.6 billion from 34 billion, more or less 32 percent, he said, but it still made Pag-IBIG the biggest lender in the housing sector.

Fabiaña said the increased uptake was a result of interest rates dropping from 12 percent in 2001 to 6 percent today, and this has also made it attractive for families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to tap Pag-IBIG for their investments.

Coupled with an increase in their purchasing power, OFWs, according to Fabiaña, were also able to afford an average mortgage of P780,000, higher than the corporate average of P610,000.

He also credited the fund’s new policy of buy-back guarantees of developers where the developers would buy back housing loans that sour, cleaning up Pag-IBIG’s bad loan stable.

10 firms ‘serious’ about holding REIT offers

Written by Miguel R. Camus / Reporter
Monday, 10 May 2010 21:49

IT seems that 2010 is shaping up to be a very good year in terms of initial public offerings (IPOs) with the implementation of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) act providing the momentum.

PSE chief operating officer Val Suarez told the BusinessMirror last week that at least 10 firms have already expressed a “serious” interest to hold REIT offers after the final rules are out this month.

In line with this, Suarez said the bourse could release its own REIT listing guidelines this Wednesday.

“But the PSE board has to sign on this first, [as] we need to see the final rules. Basically, it will have all the requirements needed for an IPO. We will try to make it as issuer-friendly as possible,” said the stock-exchange executive.

After receiving comments for the draft implementing rules of the REIT law on April 26, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may come out with the much-awaited final rules this week.

In a text message, SEC Commissioner Juanita Cueto said the final REIT rules will be part of its en banc session to be continued today. The rules will also need to be approved by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

The REIT law will allow property firms to publicly list their income-generating assets such as apartments, shopping malls and office buildings, providing these companies with an additional funding source.

Individual investors may then buy into these REIT firms, which will be listed on PSE and registered with the SEC.

REITs, which are required to pay out 90 percent of their distributable income annually as dividends, may also qualify for tax incentives and lower fees.

Suarez said the REIT listing guidelines will be in line with those approved by the SEC.

According to the original draft, a REIT company needs to have a minimum capitalization of P300 million. It should also have at least 1,000 shareholders owning at least 50 shares equivalent to at least a third of the REIT’s capital stock.

Independent directors should also occupy at least one-third or two seats on the board of the REIT firm, whichever is higher. The REIT shall engage a fund and property manager.

A number of large-property developers have already been preparing for the final rules of the REIT law.

The largest REIT offer announced so far was $600 million that SM Prime Holdings Inc expects to raise.

Ayala Land Inc. is eying to raise about $300 million, while Gokongwei-led Robinsons Land Corp. last week said it plans to be an early player in the REIT industry. Andrew Tan-led Megaworld Corp. is reportedly awaiting the final REIT rules, as well.

The PSE operates the only stock exchange in the Philippines with 250 listed companies and 132 operating trading participants.

First Pacific still keen on other mining firms

Written by Miguel R. Camus / Reporter
Monday, 10 May 2010 18:32

HONG KONG-BASED conglomerate First Pacific Co. Ltd. continues to discuss with the group of Felipe Yap for its various mining assets after gaining effective control of the country’s top gold and copper producer Philex Mining Corp. early this year.

In an interview last week, First Pacific chief executive officer Manuel V. Pangilian said talks are continuing with Yap who controls listed firms Manila Mining Corp.and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co.

Pangilinan said the group alsoremains interested in Lepanto subsidiary Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc. which has mining assets in Benguet province. This, even as Lepanto presently courts two “serious” foreign operators for Far Southeast Gold.

“We know [Lepanto] is talking to other groups. We are still interested with Far Southeast and Manila Mining,” noted Pangilinan.

First Pacific has already completed due diligence on Lepanto although a deal has yet to materialize.

“We are value investors and we would like to invest at the right price. Maybe that’s what is taking some time,” Pangilinan added.

Last month, Lepanto president and chief operating officer Bryan Yap said two foreign operators, which are major listed firms abroad, are mulling an investment inFar Southeast Gold.

Yap said Lepanto could make an announcement by the first half of the year, while adding the firm would like to “retain at least 40 percent in Far Southeast.”

The said project is still in the pre-operating stage and is considered a top-priority mining project by the government.

Pangilinan said earlier First Pacific group also wants to create economies of scale with Manila Mining and Lepanto mines with its own assets in Philex.

These include Philex’s gold mine prospects in Bayugo and Boyongan in Northern Mindanao, which are expected to replace the company’s premier Padcal mine in Benguet, which is seen to exhaust gold, copper and silver reserves in seven years.

First Pacific and its local subsidiaries have been snapping up Philex shares over the past two years bringing its present ownership to about 46.6 percent.