Sunday, August 29, 2010

Binay pitches private-govt shelter alliance

Saturday, 21 August 2010 10:17

Vice President and housing and urban De-velopment Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chairman Jejomar C. Binay is batting for a strong partnership between business and government, saying it is vital to ensuring economic development.

In a speech before members of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. on Friday, Binay stressed the need to develop an investment-friendly business climate particularly for the housing sector.

“The ideal relationship is one of cooperation and coordination, in which government and business remain in charge of their respective areas of special competence,” he said.

“Your role is to create goods and services for the economy. The role of government is to provide the best possible environment for your noble enterprise,” he added.

In Davao Binay also met with the Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines (OSHDP), where he again stressed the importance of public-private partnerships.
He said the government should explore options and mechanisms where poor homebuyers can buy with their services and the government can pay developers with tax incentives.

Developers want ‘super’ housing agency
Developers in their first-ever national meeting in Davao City on Thursday said a Cabinet-level Department of Housing is needed “to orchestrate” all the policy and operational matters of the basic housing need of a growing population, a backlog that has already ballooned to 3.8 million units.

The First OSHDP and HUDCC National Convention at the Grand Men Seng Hotel, attended by more than 250 developers of socialized and low-cost housing projects, was scheduled to present this clamor to Vice President Binay.

It is one of many issues and concerns that the more than 150 members of OSHDP want addressed by Binay and the executives of the different government agencies, including the five shelter agencies and financial institutions.

“We would like them to respond to the issues and concerns that we would raise in this convention,” said Santiago F. Ducay, vice president of OSHDP, which organized the August 19 and 20 convention.

Under the proposal that would be contained in a resolution at the end of the convention, Linda A. Tan, national president of OSHDP, said the umbrella agency HUDCC would be elevated to a Cabinet department and the National Housing Authority (NHA), the Pag-ibig Fund, the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp. (NHMFC), the Housing Insurance Government Corp. (HIGC) and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) would all be housed under it.
The NHA is mandated to take charge of the resettlement and housing of the informal sector; the NHMFC on the secondary-mortgage sector; the HIGC on insurance of housing units; and the HLURB on regulatory monitoring and enforcement.

“If the other sectors have their departments like Agrarian Reform, Environment and Public Works, why not a department for this very basic need of the Filipino households?” Ducay said.
Aside from housing all the needs of the sector under one roof, “another advantage of the department would be helping the sector access a bigger budget,” he said.

Aside from expecting a policy statement from Binay, OSHDP wants the shelter agencies and the agencies like the Social Security System (SSS) to give their statements and policy commitments to issues that OSHDP said hounded the socialized and low-cost housing sector and prevented a robust atmosphere to meet the backlog and the yearly demand of about 900,000 units.

Tan said Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rodolfo G. Valencia told the convention on Thursday he has already crafted the bill seeking these measures, and that would also seek to compel the SSS to follow again its mandate to set aside 30 percent of its income to housing. This particular proposal was favorably responded to by the Pag-Ibig Fund, she said.

The SSS participation would complement and expand the coverage of the socialized and low-cost housing program of the government, she said, “adding to the establishment of sustainable fund.”
Also under the bill, Jefferson Bongat, convention organizer, said it would seek out the use of P2.5 billion of the Pag-ibig Fund that formerly went to pay taxes and which has since been exempted.
“We hope that the government would be amenable to the plan of VP Binay that this money be used to further lower the interest in housing loans for socialized and low-cost units to less than the current 6 percent, to about 3 percent to 5 percent,” Bongat said. “This would be a big boost to the sector, and encourage more people to avail [themselves] of the housing program.”

Also, Ducay said, “We would be looking at the commitment of the national and local governments to identify idle government lands that we could use for housing.” This would bring down further the cost. A socialized housing unit would now cost P400,000 at a lot size of 40 square meters in Metro Manila, and to a little bigger of 75 to 100 square meters in the provinces with a monthly amortization of P2,800.

If the land were available for a much cheaper cost, “then it would bring down the cost further by more than 20 percent,” Tan said.

In his speech at the convention, Binay also pushed for strengthened lending to and collection from the middle class, especially overseas Filipino workers. He added that by keeping the money circulating in the home-lending system, more people can borrow, buy and amortize houses.
“A strong middle class-based home-ownership system will enable the government, in partnership with the private sector, to address the housing needs of the less-capable sectors of society,” Binay said.

He saw the need to develop standardized housing-components industry and encourage inventors to make use of local and native technology. This, he said, will lessen dependence on imported raw materials and open the door for the country’s own product exports.

Meanwhile, the Vice President also distributed land titles to beneficiary-families in barangay Agdao as part of the HUDCC’s drive to bring housing to the less fortunate.

Binay led the awarding of Transfer Certificates of Titles (TCTs) to 49 family-beneficiaries after full payment of their respective loans under the Community Mortgage Program (CMP).
The CMP is an innovative mortgage-financing system where residents of blighted or depressed areas or the urban poor may acquire a privately owned tract of land through the concept of community ownership.

“I hope you would continue to strive to meet your obligations under this program so you can attain full security in land and shelter,” Binay told the awardees in Filipino.

Since the start of its implementation in 1989, the Social Housing Finance Corp., program administrator, has granted a total of P8.5-billion loans to secure the tenure of 218,347 informal-settler families nationwide.

Of the total P412.6 million granted to Region XI to date, Davao City has been granted the highest CMP loan approval in the region, accounting for 63 percent, or P262 million, for 73 CMP projects.

With Manuel Cayon

In Photo: Vice President Jejomar Binay, concurrently chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, expounds on his plans for the agency’s programs when he guested recently at DWIZ’s program “Karambola.” With him are former Makati Rep. Teddy Boy Locsin and former Rep. Salvador “Sonny” Escudero, who are among the regular hosts of the popular talk program airing from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday to Friday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

RP-Russian forum seeks to improve trade balance

ORGANIZERS of this year’s Philippine Russian Business Forum and Exhibition hope to improve the balance of trade between the two countries by encouraging local companies to export higher-value products to Russia.

“We are very conscious of the balance of trade. We import more than we export,” said Armi Lopez Garcia, honorary consul of the Russian Federation, during yesterday’s media launch of the event at the Cebu City Waterfront Hotel and Casino yesterday.

Russia is the country’s largest trading partner in Eastern Europe. It is the country’s 23rd trading partner at a global scale with a total trade value of $389.736 million.

The country’s export to Russia increased by 15.21 percent reaching $39.086 million last year from $33.93 million recorded a year ago.

The balance of trade, however, is heavily in favor of Russia as the country’s total imports increased by 90.09 percent from $131.67 million to $250.3 million.

The country’s top exports to Russia are semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment, garments, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil and fruits. Its top imports are steel rods and bars.

“This situation poses a challenge for us to encourage the export of higher-value Philippine products to Russia to balance the trade between the two countries,” Garcia said.

Garcia said electronics, information and communications technology services, construction materials, food and beverages, automotive parts, sports footwear and travel bags, gold and silver jewelry, and twine and cordage products are some of the product exporters can promote to Russia.

“Russia is considered a largely untapped market for the Philippines,” she said.

Garcia cited in particular the potential of Cebuano export products such as fashion accessories, furniture and gift, toys and accessories, which are slowly gaining popularity among Russians through the recent trade fairs and exhibits there.

“Our products are all welcome. In fact, the Russian market loves the inclusion of pearls and natural materials into the products. There is room for us in the Russian market,” Garcia said.

The 2nd Philippine Russian Business Forum and Exhibition is organized by the Philippine Russian Business Assembly (PRBA), Embassy of the Russian Federation and the Philippine Exhibits and Themeparks Corp. (Petco) to promote tourism, trade, investment and greater economic and socio-cultural exchanges between the two countries.

The event is held in cooperation with the Cebu Province, Department of Tourism, Mandaue City and the different local business chambers.

Dr. Alberto Fenix, PRBA vice chairperson for investments, said the event will have simultaneous roundtable discussions on mining and energy, education and culture, tourism and wellness, labor and placement services, real estate and retirement facilities and trade promotion and developments.

Garcia said the event, which will run from Oct. 21 to 24 at the Cebu International Conventional Center, is expected to attract more local and international participants.

Last year’s business forum was joined by about 170 local and 30 Russian delegates. Its key achievement was the signing of the Air Service Agreement between Philippines and Russia.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 13, 2010.

Lorega’s homeless get P13M

THE socialized housing project inside the Lorega-San Miguel Municipal Cemetery will, months from now, be constructed following yesterday’s ceremonial turn-over of its fund amounting to P13.1 million.

The housing project will be a three storey building with 60 homes.

The construction, which will start before the year ends, will make possible the relocation of about 60 families living inside the cemetery.

Lorega Barangay Captain Fritz Gerald Herrera said he is grateful the housing project in his barangay will now be implemented.

“Every year, kada kalag-kalag, sige lang tag ka-starring sa mga newspaper ug sa tv kay naa man diri ang lugar nga gasagol ang mga buhi ug patay, pero murag di man maayo tan-awon. So I am grateful nga naa na ni nga project (Every All Souls’ Day we are featured in the media because here the dead and the living are in one place. It doesn’t look good),” he said.

“Lorega will be changed forever. Forever na ning manindot ang Lorega and we expect plenty of improvements to come,” he said.

Of the total amount allocated for the Lorega housing project, P10 million came from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of former congressman of the north district Raul Del Mar while the rest came from the Cebu City Government and several non-government organizations.

These organizations include the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation Inc. and the Action for Nurturing Children and Environment (ANCE).

With houses to be built, the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) chief Danilo Gabiana said the existing tombstones in the cemetery will be uprooted and the bones will be transferred temporarily in a building.

“Pero katong gilubong dri nga below five years pa, di ta katangtang ana kay naa man na implikasyon sa health (But those buried five years ago will not be touched),” he said.

“So kanang mga below five years nga maigo sa atong project, ato na silang tantangon human isud sa pantyon sa atong gipang-tang nga above five years na ug wa naigo sa project,” he said.

Of the 20,000-square-meter cemetery, 9,000 of it will be converted into a socialized housing site.

The housing project, which is expected to be done after in eight months, will be constructed by Gawad Kalinga. The Cebu City Government will be responsible for the site development.

Once it is finished, a memorial structure will be constructed in the other portion of the cemetery to house the bones of the dead.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 22, 2010.

FLI, Cebu City to break ground on SRP development

FILINVEST Land Inc. (FLI) and Cebu City Hall is set to break ground and launch their joint venture project at the South Road Properties (SRP) next week.

Officials say project would start earning for the City by next year.

Joel Mari Yu, managing director of Cebu Investment and Promotions Center (CIPC), said the City could start getting its 10 percent share of FLI’s sales at the end of this year, but only if the developer is able to sell or lease condo units.

FLI will break ground on Aug. 28 for their Citta de Mare project, which are Italian inspired residential buildings with commercial areas.

But Tristan las Marias, FLI vice president for Visayas and Mindanao, said the company is not sure yet when they will be able to start selling the units since they are still securing permits.

“We’re still processing the permits and license to sell. We’re starting to receive intentions to buy already. Maybe by fourth quarter we will get permits and license.

We can remit to the City after that on what is sold and collected,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

He projected that by third quarter of 2011, they will be able to remit the City’s
share in the earnings from the joint venture.

FLI is the joint venture partner of the City Government in the development of a 40-hectare lot in the SRP and is also the owner of the 10.6-hectare Pond F, which it bought for P1.592 billion from the City last year.

It will start developing the 10-hectare portion of the 40-hectare lot covered by the joint venture agreement, and the development of the 10.6-hectare Pond F.

City by the sea

On the 10-hectare joint venture area, six medium-rise residential buildings and a four-hectare central park will be constructed to form part of the 40-hectare “Citta di Mare,” which is Italian for city by the sea.

The first phase of Citta di Mare is expected to be finished in three to five years.

Commercial and retail complexes, a 2,000-square-meter exhibition tent, a boardwalk with fine dining restaurants and fastfood outlets will also be constructed in Pond F, the 1.1-kilometer stretch of seafront lots in the SRP.

Yu said FLI is now training its sales agents and brokers, and pre-selling activities will be in full swing soon.

“Upon conclusion of every sale, 10 percent of every sale of any income will be remitted to the City Government, whether it’s a sale or a lease,” he said.

As stated in the joint venture contract, the City gets a 10-percent share in the sale of built-up units in the 40-hectare area, or a minimum guaranteed return, whichever is higher. The City will get its share annually.

But if the minimum guaranteed return, which is the sale price of the land plus 20 percent, is higher than the City’s 10-percent share, FLI is obliged to make additional payments at the end of the five-year development period.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 18, 2010.

Osmeña: Development of the real estate business

THE real estate business in the early 1950s was largely unorganized and the caveat emptor spirit of the time – “let the buyer beware” – prevailed. No government license laws existed to govern activities of real estate brokers and their salesmen.

Congress later enacted Republic Act 9646, “An Act Regulating the Practice of Real Estate in the Philippines, Creating for the Purpose a Professional Regulatory Board of Real Estate Service, appropriating funds therefore and for other purposes.”

It took the government five decades to finally resolve the implementing rules and regulations urged then by the Philippine Association of Real Estate Board to establish trade ethics, standardization of real estate brokerage practices, commission charges, and servicing fees.

In the early 1960s, the Cebu Realtors’ Board was organized on the concept that the exchange of real estate practice and business trends information among the individual real estate boards instilled the need for unity in the real estate business. As a trade organization, the Philippine Association of Realtors Board (Pareb) was patterned after the US National Association of Real Estate Boards, when it drafted and adopted in 1913 a comprehensive code of ethics which contributed greatly to the transition of real estate from an unorganized business to its current status of a profession.

The adoption of the association’s emblem and the coining in 1916 of the trademark term “realtor,” which is reserved for sole use by the association’s active members, followed. The success of these individual real estate boards soon attracted the attention of organizing other real estate organization.

The creation of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) and the enactment of the condominium law during the Marcos rule eventually led toward the accomplishment of desirable social and economic ends to real estate development. Gone were the developers and fly-by-night operators whose road networks in the residential subdivisions are substandard, where road width is more of an alley and only open canal served as storm drainage.

One such environmentally-friendly Marcos decree was prohibiting the development of land with a slope over 60 percent and the area to be used for silviculture only. The purpose of the decree is to prevent soil erosion where the trees and shrubs hold the soil. Critics argue that HLURB should re-implement the 60 percent slope prohibition to prevent future flooding of the coastal areas.

The realtor’s preamble to the code of ethics set forth that, “under all is land, upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization. The realtor is the instrumentality through which the land resources of the nation reach its widest distribution. He is a creator of homes, a builder of cities, a developer of industries and productive farms.”

For the record, let it be recognized that realtors have, for many decades, played an important role in the development of the industry in Cebu. It is because a realtor endeavors always to be informed regarding the law, proposed legislation, and other essential facts and public policies, further, the “realtor pledges himself to be fair to purchaser or tenant, as well as the owner whom he represents and whose interests he should protect and promote as he would his own; it is the realtor’s duty to advise the owner honestly and intelligently regarding its fair market value.”

It is the duty of every realtor to protect the public against fraud, misrepresentation, or unethical practices in connection with real estate transactions. Although most people think of real estate brokerage when the term real estate business is used, the greater part of real estate activity initiates in other areas of real estate specialization.

Many who are actively or inactively engaged in real estate are not in the brokerage branch of the business and are not negotiating real estate transactions for others and for a commission. They are investing in real estate or mortgage, buying and selling an interest in real estate on their own account, appraising real estate, constructing buildings, or working in a government agency that owns, manages, regulates, taxes, finances, or seeks to stimulate the economic use of real estate. The challenge addressed to the Cebu Realtors’ Board is to broaden and encourage real estate education especially to the unlicensed “colorum” realty salespersons.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 18, 2010.

City proposes P3B infra list

THE Cebu City Government will submit today a resolution seeking support for six projects, which are intended to decongest traffic and which will cost at least P3 billion.

These include two underpasses on the South Coastal Road and pavement rehabilitation of Serging Osmeña Blvd., near Pier 4.

The six projects are components of the 2011-2016 Medium-Term Public Investment Program (MTPIP) of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Cebu City, said a Cebu City Development Council (CDC) resolution.

That resolution is what City Hall will submit today to the Regional Development Council (RDC).

In the resolution, the CDC endorsed the projects to the RDC-Central Visayas, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the Neda-Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC).

CDC members invoked President Benigno Aquino III’s declaration that he will promote transport infrastructure to encourage private investments, boost construction and support tourism development.

He also pledged to support projects that will decongest traffic.

Cebu City Planning and Development Coordinator Paul Villarete identified the proposed projects as: a two-lane Channel II underpass at the Cebu South Coastal Road corridor; a two-lane viaduct underpass, also at the coastal road; a two-lane flyover at the Mambaling access road leading to the South Road Properties flyover; a four-lane underpass at the intersection of Juan Luna St. (formerly San Jose dela Montaña) and Serging Osmeña Blvd. (near Pier 6 and SM City); a four-lane underpass at the intersection of Gen. Maxilom Ave. and Serging Osmeña Blvd.(near Pier 4); and the pavement rehabilitation of Cebu South Coastal Road and the port corridor of Serging Osmeña Blvd.


In its resolution, the CDC also recalled Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson’s visit to Cebu last July 7, when he declared that the agency’s thrusts for 2011-2016 are to create strategic support to improve accessibility of tourism destinations.

He also wants to enhance major urban thoroughfares to encourage business, investments and trade, especially in tourism centers like Cebu City.

The CDC also stated that, using the 2004 Comprehensive Impact Study for Metro Cebu Development conducted by Japan Bank for International Cooperation (formerly Japan International Cooperation Agency ), the public works department has started planning and preparing for “priority road investments” in Metro Cebu.

Villarete said if these projects are finally approved by all concerned government agencies, including the RDC, these will be implemented between 2011 and 2016.


Emmanuel S. Rabacal, chairperson of the Infrastracture Development Committee (IDC) of the RDC, said the city’s list will come up for discussion in the first committee meeting on Sept. 24.

Rabacal also said the committee may also discuss the Mono Rail Transit (MRT) project proposed by Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu Province, 1st district) if he will submit it before then.

Rabacal said the MRT was supposed to be discussed during the RDC full council meeting last March, but he objected, because it did not go through the IDC, as required by the RDC’s procedures.


Villarete, however, said he doubts the MRT will be discussed by the IDC because it lacks an endorsement from the Cebu City Government.

In the meantime, the Cebu City Government has allocated over P48 million for some development projects in several barangays.

The City Council recently approved 20 programs of work and estimates (POWE) amounting to P48,055,689, for the concreting of roads as well as fabrication of footpaths in different barangays.

According to Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias, the amount will cover the acquisition of general requirements like bonds and insurances, acquisition of equipment, the subgrading and scraping of existing pavements before concreting, and labor.

The council approved last Friday his resolution on the projects.

The allocation is also in line with Mayor Michael Rama’s promises for his first 100 days in office, including the retreading and paving of some streets and bridges.

The city council approved footpaths in the barangays of Taptap, Basak Pardo and Busay, as well as road concreting projects in Binaliw, Cambinocot, Bacayan, Guba, Taptap, Sirao, Mabini, Paril, Busay, Budlaan, Adlaon, Pit-os, Lusaran, Malubog, Pulangbato, and Agsungot.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 23, 2010.

Coastal tunnel open 24/7 starting today

STARTING at 6 a.m. today, the Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR) tunnel will be passable to vehicles 24 hours a day, except to certain types of vehicles that could compromise the safety of motorists.

Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) Board Chairman Sylvan Jakosalem met with representatives of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Kajima Construction yesterday to discuss the security plan and safety measures at the tunnel.

He said the full opening of the tunnel will ease traffic congestion on N. Bacalso Ave. and downtown, since motorists coming from southern Cebu can now take the tunnel going to the north and vice versa, at any time of the day.

The tunnel was supposed to open last November yet.

During its inauguration last June 10, DPWH opened the tunnel but only on weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.

“The opening will have a huge impact and will really ease the traffic downtown because the motorists will no longer pass through the interior of the city. This is good for the passengers also because they will reach their destination faster,” he said.

Bicycles, pedestrians, garbage trucks, trucks with more than six wheels and trucks carrying gasoline and LPG tanks will not be allowed to use the tunnel, as agreed on by DPWH and Citom.

Motorcycles will be allowed to use the tunnel, but Jakosalem said the rules may change until the City Council passes an ordinance regulating the use of the facility.

The four-lane tunnel passes underneath Plaza Independencia, outside Fort San Pedro, and exits on Sergio Osmeña St. (formerly McArthur Blvd.) in Cebu City.

Construction of the P1.62-billion tunnel began in 2006 and was funded through a loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, paid for by the National Government.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2010.

RDC 7 lists P1.7B projects

THE Regional Development Council (RDC) 7 has proposed P1.770 billion worth of infrastructure projects for the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu and the Municipality of Consolacion under the Prioritized Programs, Activities and Projects (PAPs) for inclusion in the 2011 budget proposal.

Of the P1.770 billion, P680 million will be for three flyovers—the P300-million flyover from Ouano Ave. to Plaridel St., Mandaue City; the P300-million flyover at the junction of M.L. Quezon Ave. to the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge; and the P80-million flyover in Consolacion.

There is also a proposal to widen Hernan Cortes St. in Mandaue City for P240 million.

The other proposed road widening projects are P. Remedios St. (Banilad) to Cabangcalan, P60 million; Tabok-Tingub Road to H. Abellana Road, P100 million; and Pagsabungan Road, P40 million.

To prevent flooding, a rehabilitation of drainage facilities in four areas was proposed.

These are the First Mactan-Mandaue Bridge (Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu side), P100 million; Burgos St., P20 million; from Pagsabungan Unity Homeowners Association to Barangay Basak, P40 million; and Pagsabungan Road, P40 million.

For areas without drainage systems, development planners proposed the construction of drainage facilities at the Mactan Circumferential Road (both sides located in Barangays Looc, Gun-ob, Canjulao and Babag, Lapu-Lapu City), P100 million; along H. Abellana Road corner Basak and Canduman, P40 million; Sudlon-Maguikay, P20 million; along Tabok road (both sides), P40 million; along Plaridel St. (near Mandaue City Central School), P20 million; and along the highway in Mandaue City near Consolacion town, P40 million.

There is also a proposal to construct a road along the Marcelo B. Fernan Bridge that would cost P200 million, including the road-right-of-way.

Emmanuel Rabacal, chairperson of the RDC 7’s Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC), said they will discuss the projects in a meeting on Sept. 24, the first committee meeting that he will be calling.

Meanwhile, Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu, 4th district) identified P105 million worth of projects for RDC’s endorsement.

The amount includes the P20-million road improvement project in San Remegio; the P20-million road improvement project in Tabuelan; P20-million road improvement project in Medellin; P20-million road concreting project in San Remegio; and P25 million flood control project in Daanbantayan.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 26, 2010.

House rejects moves to defer village, SK polls

A DAY after congressional leaders met with President Benigno Aquino III, the House of Representatives’ committee on suffrage killed all bills seeking the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls.

Voting 22-15, committee members shelved all the pending bills.

Committee chairman and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said holding the elections on Oct. 25, as scheduled, was the Palace’s position.

Committee members were expected to vote on the postponement yesterday, but Minority Leader Edcel Lagman questioned Tuesday’s meeting between some members of the majority party and President Aquino.

“Apparently, the leadership of the committee is prepared to kill these bills. We are virtually having a wake over the bills and we are just preparing the funeral,” Lagman said.

He is one of more than 30 House representatives seeking the postponement of the elections. The others include Reps. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (Cebu Province, 6th district), Eduardo Gullas (Cebu Province, 1st district) and Rachel del Mar (Cebu City, north).

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) assured preparations are continuing to ensure a successful barangay and SK elections in October.

“With the House shelving the proposals to postpone the elections, we will now go into high gear in our preparations to ensure a honest, orderly, peaceful and successful elections,” Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told Sun.Star Manila in a text message. (Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 26, 2010.

Roro port, airstrip ‘to spur development in Camotes’

REP. Ramon “Red” Durano IV (Cebu, 5th district) filed last week two House bills calling for the rehabilitation, improvement, and modernization of the Camotes Airport in San Francisco and the construction of a roll-on-roll-off (roro) ferry landing in Pilar.

House Bills 2667 and 2668 were filed before the 15th Congress during its regular session last week.

Durano said the two bills aim to spread development in the islands’ communities and to help spur economic activities and livelihood among its people.

“The construction of roll on-roll off (roro) ports and establishment of airports are very encouraging endeavors in uplifting rural economies,” Durano said.

The four towns of the Camotes group of islands—San Francisco, Poro, Tudela, and Pilar—were described by the Department of Tourism as the “new tourist destination in the Visayas” because of their pristine beaches and the abundance of marine resources.

However, Durano said the long isolation and slow development of infrastructure in these four towns resulted in the slow growth of its economies, prompting its people to migrate to neighboring islands like Cebu and Leyte.

“With the establishment of roro ports in the towns of Poro and San Francisco, it will slowly gain ground in developing its economy. Agricultural products can now be moved easily to mainland Cebu while local and foreign tourists can discover the island’s scenic beauty,” he said.

Durano said that in the late 1980s, efforts to attract investment to Camotes prompted the Cebu Provincial Government to start the construction and development of the Camotes Airstrip in San Francisco. The development, however, was left unattended for a long time.

“Rehabilitation and improvement of the airstrip are needed to encourage more investors and tourists to come to Camotes,” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2010.

Osmeña: City planning dilemma

CITY planning and zoning functions and activities are intended to serve as means toward the accomplishment of desirable social and economic ends. Although the planning of the growth of cities and towns in our country in an orderly fashion began in the twentieth century, city planning as an art and science dates back to the middle ages.

The origin of the more recent and widespread need for the urban planning movement may be found in the very rapid growth of the US urban population, along with the remarkable evolution in the mode of transportation and commercial intercourse.

Unfortunately today, Cebu has adopted the individual transit form of urban transportation, which excluded in the road design a bicycle lane and a coordinated walking or running area. The present road design is purely for automobile, taxi and other motorized vehicles.

When will our civic and political leaders be stimulated to take a wider interest in community problems such as road design?

The island of Cebu is still a developing island where there is a need to coordinate civic developments. Majority of Cebu’s urban dwellers do not own an automobile and the aim of the city planners should seriously consider that bicycle and walking be a part of the over-all Metro Cebu road network.

Cebu City has become a city of street vendors. There must be a way to accommodate these street vendors to keep pedestrians from using the road instead of the sidewalk. It’s the poor and middle class inhabitants who need the sidewalks, which is a free form of transport.

Likewise, the bicycle is as fast as a car in urban trips less than eight kilometers.

Metro Cebu communities are dynamic and must be sufficiently flexible in structural design to provide, if necessary, for sudden internal growth and orderly expansion by its limits.

Metro Cebu’s cities and towns may be considered a corporate entity offering cultural, social, and economic advantages superior to those offered to residents in competing neighboring island urban, suburban, rural or resort areas.

Like a business entity, a city or town as a whole must prosper if it is to continue as a going concern.

The marketing program of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia to draw and attract business to the Province’s towns and municipalities is thus of great concern to municipal and city planners.

As a requisite to good city or municipal planning, an inventory should be taken of the area’s physical and economic growth potentials, and of the resources which underlie and justify its existence. The natural growth of Metro Cebu will be chaotic if and when our local political leaders fail to implement a physical survey that involves the preparation of an official Metro Cebu Plan containing the pattern of the streets in use and for expansion, the lay of land in respect to elevation, sources of water supply, and character of the soil.

It’s a political quandary as to how Metro Cebu’s political leaders will cooperate to bring about a master plan. Congressman Tomas Osmeña, hopefully, will submit an enabling law creating the Metro Cebu Development Authority basically to develop a comprehensive Metro Cebu Master Plan, wherein a careful analysis of the physical and economic survey data should furnish the basic information upon which the master plan is to be found.

This plan, comprehensive in it scope, must be sufficiently flexible to permit growth and economic adjustment to dynamic changes caused by environmental growth. As a rule, the master plan provides a clear view of the existing pattern of public streets, arterial highways, traffic flow, and the relative adequacy of Bus Rapid Transit, light rail transit, water, air, and inter-city highway transportation.

In the preparation of the master plan, special attention must also be given to intra-city and suburban transit lines and to the adequacy of the transportation network system in relation to present and potential traffic demands.

The basic role of the authority is not to overlap the functions of the local political leaders, but only to prepare a well-conceived master plan which is flexible, provides guided control over the future growth of Metro Cebu, retards neighborhood blight, looks towards the elimination of slums, and stimulates and guides private development in order to attain the greatest good for the greatest number among those who have a “stake” in the community.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2010.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

City to raise funds for marketing firm

AMID the risk of losing financial aid from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Cebu City Hall will increase this month its monthly financial assistance to the Cebu Investment and Promotions Center (CIPC), the marketing arm of the South Road Properties.

Pagcor usually gives its assistance directly to CIPC.

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But under Mayor Michael Rama’s administration, the CIPC will not only function as the reclaimed properties’ marketing office. It will also manage and oversee the operations and maintenance of the 290-hectare facility, and will be in charge of the City Government’s tourism promotions.


Rama said this is the reason the City will increase from P400,000 to P480,000 a month the financial assistance it gives to CIPC.

“Aside from marketing the SRP, CIPC will also oversee everything at the SRP. The people running CIPC are mostly professionals. SRP has become economic and business in nature and it cannot be handled in the way we handle public service,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Rama said he is just awaiting the City Council’s approval of a resolution increasing the financial aid that Pagcor gives to CIPC.

Councilor Jose Daluz III proposed a resolution affirming the validity of Resolution No. 09-2962, which approved the release of P400,000 a month directly to the Cebu Economic and Business Foundation, Inc. from Pagcor under the Host City Share.


The resolution that the City Council will tackle today also requests Pagcor to increase the fund allocation for CEBFI from the Host City Share to P480,000 a month effective Aug. 1.


CIPC Managing Director Joel Mari Yu confirmed that they accepted the offer of an increase in the financial assistance, in exchange for additional services and scope of work at the SRP.

“They’re (City) the ones who asked us to take the additional financial aid in exchange for other things they want us to do.

Before, we were just in charge of marketing the SRP but now it will be the whole thing, including the salaries of the people, maintenance of the entire SRP, the utilities and security,” Yu said.

Yu will also sit as member of the Cebu City Tourism Commission, where he will take the lead in policy making, planning and creating the City’s marketing strategies for tourism.

Not bothered

In a phone interview yesterday, he said he is not bothered at all by the plans to privatize Pagcor, and the possibility of losing their financial aid.

“That’s not a cause for worry, it’s not a problem at all. Even if Pagcor is privatized, they will not be able to get away from the obligation to give financial aid to the host city because they get their business license from the City. That is why I don’t think they will pull out the aid. The more they should give because it’s the City that issues their permit to operate,” Yu added.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 13, 2010.

Osmeña: Realty players and business forecasts

DURING the Marcos regime, the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) was created and one of its functions then was to monitor the availability of hotel rooms, to prevent an oversupply. Part of the PTA’s role was to regulate the operation and licensing of the hotel business, thus preventing financial distress for investors.

However, after Martial Law was lifted in 1986, the real estate market returned to normal, where the balance of economic, political and social forces that influence supply and demand was no longer regulated. Today, the hotel business has become highly competitive because of the entry players. There also seems to be a bandwagon mentality among investors eager to get involved in the real estate market, specifically in residential and commercial properties.

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Fixed real estate locations prevent the equalization of supply and demand on a regional or national level. Durability of real estate causes maladjustments in supply and demand on a local level. Land itself is nearly indestructible. Improvements, too, if properly maintained, will last a hundred years or more. Thus, when demand suddenly falls for any reason, inability to adjust (withdraw) supply will cause real estate to be a “drag” on the market. An oversupply of real estate create a buyer’s market, which results in lower purchase price offerings and keen competitive trade practices. But will Cebu’s building industry be able to withstand an oversupply of real estate players in the development of residential subdivisions and condominiums?

Unfortunately, there is so much wrong data and so much unknown information to determine the forces influencing real estate supply and demand. To illustrate, Cebu has always been a community of traders. The entrepreneurial talents of these traders go beyond the neighboring islands and as far as Northern Mindanao. These traders help create the balance of economic, political and social forces that influence the supply and demand of real estate. In more recent years, overseas Filipino workers and foreign nationals with Filipina wives or lovers have contributed to the demand for real estate.

But there is a lack of reliable data on the stability of income and personal savings of such groups. Neither is data on the underground economy available for study.

Big business necessitates business forecasting, for the developer today must stock up to meet the anticipated demand tomorrow. It is understandable, therefore, that developers in general take a keen interest in scientific methods that may foreshadow the course of future events.

Today, most of the larger developers rely on the services of skilled analysts trained in economics.

As a result, statistical services are made available commercially by many specialized consulting realty firms. Since the causes of yesterday or yesteryear may result in the effects anticipated tomorrow, a study of past business events is generally accepted as basic forecasting of business trends.

The regularity of periodic business swings from boom to bust has led to the belief in the existence of a business cycle which, subject to minor changes and disturbances, will inevitably repeat its swings. In retrospect, the pendulum-like movements of business activity, from optimism to over-optimism, to caution, pessimism and even panic, appear in a logical sequence and are traceable to violations of economic laws of supply and demand and, in some years, the lack of political stability.

Analysts argue that an oversupply of residential subdivisions and condominiums could harm the real estate industry in Cebu, and that it is only a question of time that an oversupply of condos will happen.

The realty rental business is now encountering vacancy problems. The expat market is dwindling due to lingering effects of economic crisis in many economies abroad. Rental income from high-end residences has competitively been absorbed by the entry of condo ownership.

In recent years, the application of economic checks and balances under the National Government has counteracted cyclical economic behavior. There is now some doubt whether, under continued maintenance of such controls, economic history will repeat itself.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 11 2010.

Don’t follow Makati: top planner

OBSOLETE zones and building codes in Cebu will not make the province a sustainable environment to live in in the coming years, a renowned urban planner said.

Architect Felino Palafox Jr. said during the One Cebu Summit last Monday that Cebu should not follow Makati because the latter is following a wrong city model that has an imbalance of job centers and housing.

There have been a lot of infrastructure projects in Cebu City recently, making it more congested, which could cause problems during the rainy season, he said.

Palafox advised government to regulate infrastructure projects according to the geographical features of each area.

Palafox, who planned the Cebu Business Park, said that during the time they designed the park, nobody believed it was possible to make it the center of Cebu. But because Colon was becoming more crowded, the developer decided to build a business park in the uptown area.

Palafox is the owner of Palafox Associates. His clients include Dubai-United Arab Emirates, Ayala Corp., Ayala Land, SM group and World Bank-funded projects.

The company has been involved in the planning of more than 11 billion square meters of land and the design and architecture of more than seven million square meters of building floor area. It has done projects in 33 countries.

With the new administration, Palafox is hoping for a better planning of the country’s infrastructure.

“We need to regulate infrastructure. Instead of having an urban sprawl which is taking up much land area, we should have vertical buildings,” said Palafox.

He pushed for a good business infrastructure master plan that would strike a balance between business and environment, as well as tourism and agriculture.

“An integrated community to live, work, play, worship and shop would be an ideal and sustainable environment to live in,” he added.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Movement sees end of poverty in RP by 2024

A HOME-GROWN humanitarian movement that has caught international attention by building homes and communities for the poor envisions the end of poverty in the Philippines by 2024.

Tony Meloto, founder of the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Community Development Foundation, said the nation-building movement is committed to end poverty by 2024 and needs all sectors to lend a hand.

He said GK has built 50,000 homes across the country, with the help of various agencies and private partners.

“We seek to transform the lives of the poor and create a massive community-based platform for productivity,” he said, adding that they do not just build houses but also help attain food security and “restore dignity” among the poor.


Camarines Sur Gov. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte Jr., who supported GK projects in every town of the province, said the foundation has helped transform CamSur and the Bicol region.

“Before, what came to people’s minds when they heard of CamSur was that it is a typhoon-prone area and infested with NPAs (New People’s Army), but now, when you Google CamSur, it’s all about tourism,” he said.

Meloto and Villafuerte were in Cebu yesterday for the GK Builders’ Night.

In a press conference, Meloto explained he declined a Cabinet position as head of the housing council, because he wanted to impress the idea that the government doesn’t hold all the responsibilities or all the answers.

For the Global Bayani Challenge in April, GK will need at least 5,000 volunteers to help rebuild 160 homes wrecked by a storm in Bantayan Island.

In his province, Villafuerte said, all sectors are involved in GK projects, even the Church, which donated five hectares of land to the foundation.

“With GK, we are able to release the poor from the mindset of hopelessness and develop in them an attitude of ‘Yes, we can’,” he said.


GK Singapore head Aileen Ong, who gave up her 30-year career as a music teacher to become a volunteer of GK, said building villages for the poor has given families hope.

“I had spent four days in a slum in the Philippines and realized Singapore is so blessed. It is a great honor to be able to participate in this movement,” she said.

She said corporations in Singapore are looking for credible partners, and the Philippines could become one of them with the help of GK.

“Addressing poverty should take the bottom-of-the-pyramid approach. Such approach will create sustainability,” she added.

Jerome Awit, head of GK Cebu, called on Cebuanos to join in the “journey” of nation-building.

“Everyone should be a part of nation-building,” he said.

Currently, he said, there are 11 GK sites in Cebu, one of which was started in Dumanjug with the help of the J.P. Garcia Foundation.

Beyond providing shelter, Meloto said, GK has become a bridge for foreign investments.

“Through our projects, we show that Filipinos can be trusted, because the main problem investors from Singapore, Hong Kong and European countries have with us is trust,” he said.

He added 400 mayors and governors have worked with GK and not one of them has been corrupt in dealing with projects of the foundation.

GK sites, he said, are the “safest” and can also be found in certain territories where the Abu Sayyaf operate.

“When you restore human dignity, you also bring peace and order,” he added.


Villafuerte said he believes GK should be a model for development in the country. He considers it the single biggest investor in CamSur, considering it has built 5,000 homes, estimated at P80,000 per home.

The province rose from being the 39th poorest to 10th richest province in the country, he added.

“GK is good politics. You can’t go wrong with GK,” the third-term governor said.

Meloto said the country is now in a “new season of hope,” with President Benigno Aquino III—who has also called for greater public-private partnership—enjoying record-high trust ratings.

“We don’t want to squander the next six years.”(RSB)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 6, 2010.

Osmeña: PNoy’s land use agenda

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III’s declaration to implement land use planning is a must today, as hodgepodge development unfolds in the country.

Several states in the US, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Vermont, Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Oregon, have attempted to develop and in some cases have implemented laws for land use planning and control.

Japan is the only country with comprehensive planning and zoning. The entire nation is divided into five major land use zones: urban, agricultural, parks, nature reserves and forests.

During the 1960s, Belgium, West Germany and the Netherlands passed laws establishing guidelines for land use, but left the actual planning to the localities.

Canada has also developed a fairly comprehensive land use planning program. It’s about time the Philippines has its own land use planning program in order to protect its
environment. To maintain its pristine environment, there is a need to set ecological planning as a goal.

After PNoy’s declaration of a land use program, it is the responsibility of Congress to legislate both urban and non-urban land use and control plans. The first step in the development of a comprehensive land use plan is to gather geological, biological and sociological data on each province and the use of each parcel of land. These data are used to make projections about how Filipinos may need to use the land in the future, and this information is evaluated to determine the best present and future use
for each parcel of land.

Four major methods are used to make projections and develop a land use plan: (1) extrapolation of existing trends, (2) reaction to crisis, (3) systems analysis and modeling and (4) ecological planning. The steps involved in the development of a comprehensive land use plan require a strong political will and sufficient funding for its success.

To illustrate, our country’s desire to boost tourism raises the need to isolate areas where the environment should remain pristine and where no industries that could cause pollution will be allowed to enter.

The artificial political boundaries of cities, towns and provinces bear little relation to the natural airsheds, watersheds and ecosystems in each region.

As a result, land use planning and control in one area may be undercut by lack of planning or by planning with opposite goals in surrounding areas.

The environmental destruction of our country’s resources is one of the major concerns of PNoy. There should, in fact, be ecological land use planning that consists of: (1) making an environmental and social inventory; (2) determining goals and their relative importance; (3) producing individual and composite maps; and (4,5,6) developing, evaluating and implementing a comprehensive plan.

The problems associated with ecological land use planning include difficulties in getting reliable scientific, economic and social data; assessing aesthetic and ecological factors; lack of effective means for implementing land use plans; and political conflicts between those with differing ethical views on how land should be used.

In ecological or any other form of land use planning, decisions to grant permits for residential, commercial, industrial or any other use are normally made by the nation’s thousands of separate city governments.

Unfortunately, these local governments do not have the money, staff and information needed to do comprehensive land use planning.

The political leaders of the Province of Cebu should have the foresight to support PNoy’s declaration to implement a nationwide land use plan, by setting up in Cebu an advisory council of government, to draw up and coordinate integrated land use plans for the entire island.

It is time for Cebu’s civic, professional and trade organizations to lobby the government to support the council for expertise and funds, and to legalize the authority to implement decisions.

Cebu’s self-proclaimed environmentalists could help make ecological inventories of their natural communities and the plant and animal life they contain.

Such information can be useful in development comprehensive land use policies at the provincial, regional and national levels.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 4, 2010.

Philippine-Russian forum to feature trade exhibit

PRIME commodities and industries of the Russian Federation will take center stage on Oct. 21-24 when the Philippine Russian Trade Exhibition opens at the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) in Mandaue City.

This Trade Exhibit showcasing the world-class products of leading companies from the two countries is a major component in this year’s Philippine Russian Business Forum (PRBF).

Following the success of the 1st PRBF last year, which focused on RP-Russia economic relations, organizers decided to include the exhibition in the 2010 event to boost their capacity to facilitate trade between the Philippines and the Russian Federation.

“Tourism is the entry for trade and investment,” Honorary Consul of Russia to the Visayas Armi Lopez Garcia said in last year’s forum. This year, she added, “we take a step further by focusing on trade and investment, and the expansion of tourism.”


The exhibition will serve as an educational point of exchange of cultural and economic backgrounds of both countries. It will showcase the various trade opportunities in both the Philippine and Russian sides.

“We hope to generate more trade opportunities and strengthen relations between Russia and the Philippines through this exhibition,” Garcia said. “This will be a good entry point for the Russians not only to the Philippine market but to the Asean and even the rest of the world, and vice versa.”

Lined up for exhibition are products and services related to tourism and wellness; trade promotion and development; mining and energy; education and culture; labor, placement services and outsourcing; and retirement facilities and real estate development.


As Russia is known to have the largest reserves of mineral and energy resources in the world and is the world’s leading energy superpower, the visiting exhibitors are expected to bring in new ideas and current trends in the Russian energy market.

Russia also has the world’s largest timber reserves and may likewise promote its wood furniture industry, along with its food products, toys and house wares, jewelry, fashion and accessories, and industrial goods.

Exhibits for tourism and wellness will showcase M.I.C.E. facilities and destinations, tourist attractions, and health and wellness products, as well as medical tourism-
related services.

Various aspects of both Filipino and Russian education, as well as culture, will also be featured in the trade fair, including English language training and arts and crafts.


Among the highlights of the Philippine Russian Business Forum and Trade Exhibition is the one-on-one business matching and meeting between exhibitors and investors/buyers.

The four-day 2nd Philippine-Russian Business Forum is organized by the Philippine Russian Business Assembly (PRBA), Embassy of the Russian Federation, and the Philippine Exhibits and Themeparks Corp. (PETCO).

It is being held in cooperation with the Province of Cebu, City of Mandaue, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Tourism, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Cebu Business Club, and the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (PR)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 4, 2010.

6.5-7% 2010 growth ‘possible’

Written by Mia M. Gonzalez / Reporter
Tuesday, 20 July 2010 21:28

FOLLOWING the government’s decision to raise the deficit ceiling, the economy may grow by as much as 6.5 percent to 7 percent this year provided that inflation remains low, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Deputy Director General Augusto Santos said on Tuesday.

Santos told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that with the economic managers’ decision to increase this year’s deficit ceiling from P300 billion to P325 billion to channel more funds to infrastructure and social services, “there is a greater chance of having more economic growth.”

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund, having earlier recalibrated this year’s growth in terms of the gross domestic product to 6 percent from 3.5 percent, similarly recast growth next year to a higher rate averaging 4.5 percent, from 4 percent. “Higher growth is very possible. It can be achieved,” IMF head of mission Vivek Arora said in a briefing Tuesday at the central bank complex.

Santos for his part said the Neda is “optimistic” the government can meet its 5 percent to 6 percent projected GDP growth target for 2010.

Asked what would be the range if the GDP target were upgraded, Santos said: “It can be in the range of. . . 6.5 percent to 7 percent because of spending.”

He said the government “has elbow- room for spending because inflation has been benign and so, therefore, I
myself think that we should continue with this accommodative fiscal and monetary policies.”

“The central bank has decided to keep interest rates as is. For fiscal spending, the budget by itself speaks for itself,” Santos added.

He said the government could afford to keep its accommodative stance for as long as inflation remains low.

“My prescription to that is the moment we see even a small uptick in inflation, then that is an indication that we should start reining in loose fiscal and monetary policies. That will be my own indicator. The moment I see a slight uptick in inflation, then that’s the signal,” Santos said.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the budget deficit in the first six months of the year is “likely” to breach P178.5 billion—the projected first-semester deficit as estimated by then-Finance Secretary Margarito Teves.

Abad said the possibly higher-than-projected first semester deficit, which may be officially announced on Wednesday, is due to increased spending and expenditures that ran up to “the billions” toward the end of the previous administration.

“There were still surprises in the expenses, expenditures made up to the last month, up to the end of June, June 30. Like in congressional initiatives, for example,” he said.

When asked, Abad said the government will “most likely” consider more borrowings if it does not meet its collection targets.

“Well, if the collection targets are not achieved, that is the most likely step that we have to take and I think Finance Secretary [Cesar] Purisima is looking at that,” he said.

Purisima said borrowings would always have foreign and local components, and the mix would depend on what’s the most advantageous for the government.

“We have to be opportunistic about all of these things so that we can get our debt at the cheapest cost [possible]. We will announce at the right time,” he said.

Asked whether the current economic numbers, particularly the deficit, are a cause of concern for the economic managers, Purisima said: “No. We’re looking forward. We believe that what’s past is past, and we cannot do anything about it. So what’s important for us is what we will do in the next six months, which we have declared, and what we will do in the next six years. I think that’s what’s important.”

Underwater hotel on SMP list

Written by Miguel R. Camus / Reporter
Thursday, 05 August 2010 20:51

SAN Miguel Properties Inc. (SMP), the real-estate subsidiary of conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), plans to launch as many as four new developments, including the country’s first “underwater hotel,” next year as part of its foray into the tourism segment, a top official said on Thursday.

SMP real-estate development head Alan Cruz said projects on the drawing board include a “spiritual” hub in a 125-hectare property in Alfonso, Cavite; a 28-hectare mixed-use beachfront development on Boracay Island; and a midrise condominium cluster in a 2.8-hectare property along Outlook Drive in Baguio City.

He said the fourth project is an ambitious underwater hotel off Busuanga Island near Coron Island in Northern Palawan.

“All the four projects would happen next year in terms of the implementation. The planning stages should happen within this year,” Cruz told the BusinessMirror on Thursday, without citing financial figures.

“We are going to entertain the experts in the industry, in terms of operating a hotel or maybe a country club. That is applicable for Boracay and, to a certain extent, in the Cavite project,” he added.

The move is part of a broader strategy to create “synergies” with the parent company’s infrastructure-related projects.

These include Caticlan Airport, the nearest air gateway to Boracay Island, and the 88.5-kilometer Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, which will cut travel time from Manila to Baguio by half.

SMP already “rebranded and relaunched” itself during the recently concluded Philippine Real Estate Fair last week in a bid to become a major property developer in the next five years.

SMP plans to launch its Cavite project first, from which a 33-hectare parcel of land was donated to the healing ministry of Companions of the Cross priest Fernando Suarez. The property may house venues for weddings, baptisms, retreat houses, as well as a 100-meter-tall statue of the Virgin Mary.

To support the spiritual component, SMP is looking to build residential and commercial projects, as well as hotels.

SMP earlier said it is spending P6 billion to develop a high-rise residential project in Makati City and an American-inspired gated community in General Trias, Cavite.

In a previous interview, SMP finance and administration head Gil Somblingo said the companyis eyeing P1 billion in sales this year.

Existing projects of the firm include Maravilla, Bel Aldea in General Trias, The Legacy in Las Piñas City and Buenavista Homes in Cebu.

SMP recently sold its 31-percent stake in Bank of Commerce to the SMC Retirement Plan for an undisclosed amount. The transaction brought the retirement fund’s ownership in the commercial bank to 51.1 percent.

In Photo: Willy Arcilla, San Miguel Properties consultant, discusses the company’s proposed projects at the San Miguel Corp. Building in Ortigas Center on Thursday. (Nonoy Lacza)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Construction boom likely to hit RP within the decade

Written by Cai U. Ordinario / Reporter
Monday, 19 July 2010 20:52

THE Philippines is likely to experience a construction boom within the decade because of the urgent need to address the country’s infrastructure constraints, according to an economist from the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P).

Dr. Victor Abola, executive director of the First Metro Investment Corp (FMIC)-UA&P Capital Markets Research, said the boom will more likely be due to the housing deficit of more than 3 million units.

Abola said the current production of housing units is only 250,000 every year. This is also why a real-estate bubble was not possible in the Philippines. A bubble may only occur in high-end luxury developments but not in mid- or low-income market projects, he said.

“We will have a construction boom in this decade because of two things—infrastructure and housing boom. How can we have a bubble in housing when we have a shortage of more than 3 million units? Ang production natin is only 250,000 a year,” he said.

“People who talk about a bubble are looking most probably in the higher-priced luxury apartments. There, there could be a bubble kasi people buy it, many of them for investment purposes. But if you are buying for your own self, its not, you’re not buying for investments but for your own use,” Abola explained.

Manolito Madrasto, executive director of the Philippine Constructors Association (PCA) said the construction industry expects better prospects this year. He said the PCA is looking at a growth forecast of 7 percent to 9 percent.

This is only a conservative estimate, he said, however, and the industry could still reach a double-digit growth, depending on the demand for real estate and infrastructure projects which will provide a boost to the sector.

“In the PCA, we are trying to be as conservative as possible. We don’t want to raise the hopes too high,” Madrasto said.

The latest data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) showed that the total value of construction during the first quarter of 2010 rose 59.5 percent to P47.3 billion from P29.7 billion recorded during the same quarter of 2009.

The NSO said that the value of residential-building construction had an increase of 24.6 percent amounting to P21.3 billion from P17.1 billion during the same quarter of 2009.

The value of nonresidential building construction posted a growth of 130.5 percent amounting to P22.3 billion from P9.7 billion registered during the same quarter of 2009.

The combined value for additions, alterations and repairs, the NSO said, reached around P3.7 billion or a 27.4-percent increase from P2.9 billion registered during the same period of 2009.

The NSO said the value of construction for the National Capital Region (NCR) had remained highest at P23.4 billion, accounting for 49.4-percent share of the total value.

Construction value in Calabarzon (Region IVA) and Central Luzon (Region III) ranked a far second and third with shares of 16.5 percent with P7.8 billion and 7.8 percent with P3.7 billion, respectively.

In Photo: A construction worker balances himself precariously atop a building being constructed in Manila. An economist has predicted a construction boom in the country because of an acute housing deficit. (Bloomberg News)

Philippines to host first-ever conference on independent and small-hotel owners

Written by VG Cabuag / Reporter
Tuesday, 20 July 2010 20:43

THE Philippines will play host in August to a first-of-its-kind hotel conference in the country, which aims to make independent hotel operators and owners more competitive and thus sustain their business.

“The meeting aims to clear up perceptions and misconceptions among small-hotel operators and thus help them compete with the bigger ones, such as the Peninsula Group and the Accor, to name just two,” said Merril Yu, chief executive officer of Y&S 1847, a hotel investment and development company, one of the organizers of the event.

He said that in Boracay, for instance, there was no big hotel there until the Shangri-La group put up one to cater to the higher end of the market there.

Yu said there were still many places in the country where independent hotel operators could thrive, such as Tagaytay, Bohol, Dipolog, Cagayan de Oro, Dumaguete and Tacloban.

“There are not too many hotels in Davao, and we need more of this kind of development,” he said.

He also said the boom in hotel business will be mainly driven by air travel and growth in the food business and that this was now happening in nonfamiliar destinations in the country.

The growth in air travel was mainly brought about by the expansions of Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines, which, together, flew a total of 14 million domestic travelers last year.

The growth of international and domestic tourism contributed $12 billion to the global economy, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. The trend, which is expected to continue over the next years, will increase the demand for investments in more facilities and accommodations.

“With our rich heritage and scenic natural attractions, the Philippines will be an ideal investment location for foreigners and locals. There are many diamonds in the rough just waiting to be discovered,” said Adolf Aran Jr., president of Food and Hospitality Events Specialist Inc. (F&H), which is also among the organizers of the event.

F&H and Y&S 1847 have assembled the world’s top hotel chief executives and industry experts to kick off the August 20 event, which will be called First Philippine Hotel Investment Conference. It will be held at the SMX Convention Center. Among the high-profile and internationally known panelists are Serena Lim of Starwood Hotels, Thomas Monahan and Aiyi Lim of Wyndham Hotel Group, Jose Mari del Rosario of Microtel Hotel and Resorts (Philippines), Al Legazpi of Ayala Hotels Inc., Arthur Gindap of Ascott International, among others.

“We will have the great honor of playing hosts to most, if not all, of the movers and shakers of the hotel industry who will share their invaluable knowledge and experience with the participants of the first Philippine Hotel Investment Conference. All eyes will be on our country and the wealth of business opportunities the conference can offer,” Yu said.

In Photo: Meril Yu (center), CEO of Y&S1847, a hotel investment and development company, gestures as he fields questions during a press conference to discuss the holding of the 1st Philippine Hotel Investment Conference on August 20 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia in Pasay City. He is flanked by Patrick Lawrence Tan (left), CEO of F&H Events Specialist Inc., and Adolf Aran Jr., president of F&H Events Specialist Inc. (Roy Domingo)