Team to address housing dev’t issues to be created

Team Leoncio Evasco Jr

TO COUNTER housing industry bottlenecks, Cabinet Secretary and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chief Leoncio Evasco Jr. announced on Friday, March 17 during the Grand National Housing Summit in SMX Convention Center, Lanang, Davao City that a memorandum on creating a composite team will be released immediately to monitor and follow up on issues raised by the industry players. He said the team will be composed of representatives from key shelter agencies and his office.

“This composite team will follow up all the issues and concerns tackled during the summit,” he said in a press conference after the event. He emphasized that the theme will primarily focus on four areas categorized by the government where there are constraints that make the implementation of various housing programs slacken.

HUDCC assistant secretary Clarence Pascual elaborated that the four areas listed down are issues on financial, permits and documentation, legal, and technical. For technical issues, listed concerns are confusing and contradicting building standards and Fire Code of the Philippines, requirement of retention pond, rainwater catchment, and additional greening space, preparation, implementation and updating of Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and industry-wide data generation on housing, among others.

“For financial aspects, the tax reform initiatives affecting real estate, incentives, housing loans, others are identified while for permits and documentation, it centers on issues concerning the processing of clearances, permits, shortening the processing time and speeding up all the clearances required in the industry,” Pascual said.

On the legal aspect, developers brought the issues on implementation of the socialized condominiums, socialized housing compliance and amendment of the Real Estate Service Act. Evasco, in a speech, underscored that the Duterte administration’s key agenda for the housing sector is to increase affordable housing production as well as bring down the cost of houses. He noted that some private developers expressed dismay with the government for the delays in permits, as well as inconsistencies in policies that hamper their housing production. On average, developers said it takes a year and a half to comply with all the documents needed before they can start building.

Other key concerns raised by developers were the two-year moratorium on agricultural land conversions, imminent removal of value-added tax exemptions on low-cost and socialized housing, and delisting of houses above P2 million from the government’s proposed Investment Priorities Plan 2017-2019. Organization for Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines national president Marcelino Mendoza, said private developers commit to double its production for this year from 250,000 housing units built last year to 500,000 housing units to answer the country’s housing backlog at 5.6 million.


Ayala Land to spend P16B to build new malls in 3 years

Ayala Center Cebu

MANILA — Real estate giant Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) plans to spend P16 billion to build new malls over the next three years as it continues to build up its recurring income business, riding the country’s robust economic growth.

“We are expanding aggressively… We will be tripling our size in three years. By 2020, we will have at least 3.2 million in gross leasable area for Ayala malls,” AC Legarda, Senior Division Manager of ALI’s Commercial Business Group, said in an interview. By the end of 2017, Legarda said the property firm expects to register a total of 1.8 million square meters (sqm) of gross leasable space in its malls segment.

She noted ALI planned to complete six shopping centers this year with a total leasable space of 198,000 square meters. These include the Ayala Malls in Vertis North in the Quezon City Central Business District; Marikina Heights; Cloverleaf in Balintawak, Quezon City; One Bonifacio High Street in Bonifacio Global City (BGC); Ayala Malls Feliz in Cainta; and Ayala Malls Southville in Las Pinas.

These are in addition to Ayala Malls The 30th which opened in January of this year The company targets to launch 11 new shopping malls next year, bringing total expected GLA by the end of 2018 at two million square meters. Expansion for next year includes Bacolod, Cebu, Makati and Bay Area in Paranaque. “The economy is ready, we are very ripe, we are in our sweetest spot now. All the other brands would like to come in, the numbers are doing very well. And we see the market growing so we would like to grow with the market,” she added. Legarda also attributed the growing business process outsourcing (BPO) market and the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remittances driving the growth of retail spaces.

”We are very excited about the expansion, we would like to reach more markets. We are not only concentrating in Metro Manila, we are also doing a lot in the provincial areas,” she added. Meanwhile, Uber has teamed up with the Ayala Malls The 30th, Ayala Malls’ newest community mall in the North, in providing uberHOP service to riders during peak hours. For a flat rate of P70, riders can conveniently access Ayala Malls The 30th to and from the business hubs of Makati and BGC.


Bloomberry Exec. says Philippines may surpass Singapore in casino gaming

Bloomberry Resorts Corporation

An improvement in tourism numbers as well as infrastructure within the Philippines may give the country an opportunity to see their casino sector outperform Singapore in the near future. Speaking with CNBC late last week, Bloomberry Resorts Corp. Enrique Razon was positive in his comments about the Philippines and how he feels the country may be able to become the top gambling destination in Southeast Asia.

In the interview, Razon stated that with more properties coming online, the size of the Philippine market should be increased. In the medium to long-term scale, Razon feels that everyone will do well. Razon has been a strong supporter of the gambling policy changes made by President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, with continued plans to bet on the country instead of taking his investments elsewhere.

Razon was asked in the interview why he feels that the Philippines could surpass Singapore and become the top gambling destination in the region and he stated that since Duterte took power in 2016, relations between the Philippines and China have started to warm up. Relations between Manila and Beijing are improving and Razon feels that this will help to see tourism numbers improve in the future.

The Bloomberry Executive stated that travel restrictions to the Philippines have been lifted by China after Duterte visited the country and this has helped with tourism numbers. The administration under Duterte has also spent more time on infrastructure which Razon pointing out that this could help improve business prospects for the gaming sector.

Razon has been busy in the country, with plans to have four casinos in operation within the next five to six years. He invested $1.2 billion in the Solaire Resort in 2013, which is located in the area known as Entertainment City, to begin his foray into the casino industry of the Philippines. He also announced last year that he would be working on a second casino in Quezon City. This resort has a cost of P20 billion which is equal to $418 million US dollars. The resort should be completed by 2019 and include a hotel, convention center and shops.


RLC eyes more franchising deals for Go Hotels

Go Hotels Roxaco-Vanguard Hotel Corp

THE PARTNERSHIP of Roxaco Land Corp. and Singapore’s Vanguard Hotels Pte. Ltd. has opened its second budget hotel under a homegrown brand of Robinsons Land Corp., which looks at signing more franchising agreements to further expand its presence.

Robinsons Land owns and operates the country’s first value hotel with the launch of
Roxaco-Vanguard Hotel Corp. opened the second of five Go Hotels it agreed to operate in association with Robinsons Land on Monday.

The hotel lies along North EDSA in Quezon City, a location which Vanguard Hotels Group Chief Executive Officer Bruce Musick described as “gateway to the northwest of the country” and strategic for being surrounded by government offices and businesses.

The newly opened branch offers 167 rooms catering to business and leisure travelers, including a number of units designed for persons with disabilities.

The joint venture first opened a Go Hotels branch along the Manila Airport Road in Parañaque City, with plans to open three others in Cubao in Quezon City, Ermita in Manila and Timog in Quezon City within the second quarter.

“The plan is for us to hopefully by the end of May have all five Go Hotels up and running,” Roxaco Land President and Chief Executive Officer Santiago R. Elizalde said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Go Hotels North EDSA.

“This is really in line with our commitment to get five properties up and running as soon as possible before we proceed with the next batch,” Mr. Elizalde added.

In an earlier interview, Mr. Elizalde revealed the partnership was looking at developing 25 properties in association with Robinsons Land.

“We wanted to stop at five (branches) first and then really see what the results are. And if the assessment is positive, then we move forward with another five. So we want to do it in blocks of five properties at a time. We already had an agreement with the Robinsons Group,” Mr. Elizalde had said.

Go Hotels North EDSA represents the 12th branch of the homegrown chain. Robinsons Land, which owns 10 of the operating properties, looks to have a total of 16 hotels with 2,500 rooms under the brand toward the yearend.

“I believe that close to 1,000 of that will be courtesy of Roxaco-Vanguard. On top of that, of course, we have Summit Hotels and some of our international hotel chains within the group,” Robinsons Land President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick D. Go said.

Robinsons Land will open a Go Hotels branch in Iligan City within the year, in addition to the three more properties being developed by Roxaco-Vanguard.

The listed property developer looks to further expand its hotel portfolio to 3,500 rooms by 2018. At present, it operates two Summit Hotels in Cebu, one in Tagaytay and another in Quezon City along with Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn within the Ortigas Business District alongside the 12 Go Hotels.

“There are lots of people talking to us now, for franchises in a lot of the provinces all over the country. So we’re assessing all of that and we’ll probably sign more franchisees soon,” Mr. Go said.

Robinsons Land can have at least six properties under franchise agreements by 2018, as it discusses another partnership in Davao.

“Our main selling point of course is we have the system, we have the booking engine, we have the know-how, the experience, the management so it makes a lot of sense for people to franchise,” Mr. Go noted.


PHL, Israel eye more agriculture cooperation, larger investments in BPO sector


Israel has vowed its continuing support for the development of the country’s farm sector, and proposed to expand its current exchange program for Filipino agricultural students who want to learn from Tel Aviv’s expertise and advanced technologies in agriculture.

In a recent meeting with Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Israel Ambassador to Manila Ephraim Ben Matityau also discussed possible investments by Israeli companies in the local business-process outsourcing (BPO) industry and in private-sector start-ups in the information-technology sector.

Matityau said a program he had piloted, in cooperation with the Commission on Higher Education, aims to develop “leaders of change” in the Philippines who will be trained in utilizing Tel Aviv’s technological innovations that have made agriculture a profitable venture for Israel’s richest entrepreneurs.

Israel, for one, invented drip irrigation, which allows dry lands to produce multiple yields.

Under the exchange program, 550 college students, chosen from 29 agricultural schools outside Metro Manila, will be sent to Israel each year to participate in the training program.

Dominguez thanked the ambassador for Israel’s assistance to the Philippines, and agreed with Matityau on the need to explore financial cooperation pacts between the two countries to facilitate trade and investments via Ashra, which is Tel Aviv’s export-credit agency.

“We will certainly support all your efforts, Mr. Ambassador. I’m sure, at one point or another, this will come before us when financing is required, or when projects are required to have the approval of the ICC, of which I am the chairman. ICC is the Investment Coordinating Committee. So you have our support 100 percent,” Dominguez said.

The agreement on technical cooperation in the field of agriculture between Israel and the Philippines dates back to 1964, six years after the two countries signed their Treaty of Friendship on February 26, 1958.

Besides this accord, the Philippines and Israel also forged 13 other bilateral agreements, among them a memorandum of understanding on scientific and technological cooperation, an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation, agreement on mutual assistance in customs matters, a tourism agreement and a cooperation agreement on telecommunications.

Some 30,000 Filipinos live and work in Israel.

Citizens carrying Philippine passports enjoy visa-free entry to Israel as an expression of Israel’s gratitude to the country for allowing many Jewish families to seek refuge in the 1930s to the 1940s to escape the Holocaust.

The Philippines was also the only Asian country to support in November 1947 before the United Nations General Assembly the creation of the State of Israel.



China keen on putting up industrial park in PH

China Industrial Park

China is considering building an industrial park in the Philippines, promising to boost the local manufacturing sector and create more jobs as bilateral ties improve, according to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.

“In the Asean, we have already built eight Industrial parks but we haven’t built any in the Philippines yet,” the ambassador said his speech during an investment forum on Friday.

“We will work with Philippine authorities and explore the possibility of setting up an industrial park here. This is to help boost the local manufacturing sector and create more jobs.”

China’s interest in setting up an industrial park in the Philippines comes as cooperation between the two countries improve under the Duterte administration. President Duterte pursues a softer approach in resolving territorial disputes that have previously strained the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and China.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry chair emeritus Francis T. Chua, at the sidelines of the forum, said San Miguel Corp. president Ramon S. Ang had expressed interest in partnering with the government for the industrial park.

“He said they (investors) could choose if they want set it up in the North or in the South,” Chua said, citing a source in the Department of Trade and Industry.

Ang has not responded to request for confirmation as of press time. He was part of the business delegation that accompanied Duterte in his visit to China.

In the meantime, Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong is set to visit the Philippines next month, following the visit of the new commerce minister of China, Zhong Shan.

This is according to Jose Sta. Romana, the country’s ambassador to China, who said “the new commerce minister will come and the talks would proceed on the Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation.”

“The Chinese vice premier would come in Mid-March. The President (Duterte), I think, is invited to go to China for the 1 belt 1 road in May,” he said.


BPO Firms Remain Philippines’ Top Employer

BPO IT Sector

The business process outsourcing (BPO) sector remains the top-employment sector in the Philippines, accounting for 38% of the country’s total workforce, according to data released by

The study further revealed that the high salary in the country’s IT sector will continue to encourage and create a stronger industry workforce.

Professionals in the IT sector remain the highest-paid employees in the country, said.

IT professionals command a monthly salary of P37,034 for a junior executive and P68,723 for supervisors. The business process outsourcing (BPO) remains the top-employment sector accounting for 38 percent of the total workforce, the report said.

Following IT-related jobs, other professions having the highest salaries include law and legal services – P29,430; training and development – P27,253; banking and financial services – P27,188; and actuarial science and statistics – P27,064, it added.


Phl to survive external shocks – IMF

International Monetary Fund

MANILA, Philippines –  Multilateral lender International Monetary Fund (IMF) is confident the Philippine economy will continue to perform strongly as the country is expected to remain resilient despite external shocks this year.

An IMF mission led by Luis Breuer, which visited Manila from Feb. 20 to 24, said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth would remain steady at 6.8 percent this year.

“The economic outlook continues to be favorable, although subject to external headwinds. In 2017, growth is projected at 6.8 percent on continued strong domestic demand and a mild export recovery,” the lender said in a statement.

The multilateral lender warned the higher GDP growth outlook is subject to downside risks including lower regional growth, capital outflows due to the normalization of interest rates by the US Federal Reserve as well as the heightened global policy uncertainty.

“Over the medium term, a continuation of sound macroeconomic policies and structural reforms would be important to sustain investor confidence and make growth more inclusive,” the IMF team said in a statement.

The team added key reforms include those aimed at raising productive investment, opening up the economy to greater competition and foreign investment, and reducing poverty such as by removing the quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

Economic managers penned a GDP growth target of between 6.5 and 7.5 percent for this year.

The country’s GDP growth accelerated to 6.8 percent last year from 5.9 percent in 2015 amid strong domestic demand and higher investments reflecting higher public infrastructure spending and private construction.

The Duterte administration has raised its budget deficit cap to three percent of GDP instead of two percent as it intends to ramp up infrastructure spending.

The team that met with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. and other economic managers, senior government officials, and private sector representative said upside risks including higher commodity prices, pass through from currency depreciation, and strong economic activity are seen pushing inflation to 3.6 percent this year from 1.8 percent last year.

The BSP has set an inflation target of two to four percent between 2017 and 2020.

It added upside risks to economic growth include a faster pace of budget execution and higher global growth.

The IMF said the passage of the first package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) is critical to sustain the rise in expenditures targeted in the medium term fiscal framework.

“Fiscal policy is appropriately focused on the medium-term objectives of addressing the infrastructure gap and inequalities and should be supported by public financial management reforms,” it added.


The BPO sector moving forward

BPO Sector Donald Trump

The election of Donald Trump as US president last November brought mixed reaction in terms of its impact on the Philippine economy and the business sector.

Some analysts and businessmen feared that with his protectionist “America first” statements during the campaign, a Trump presidency would slow down, or even cause a withdrawal of investments from the Philippines.

Others believe that the Philippines’ many advantages as an investment hub would continue to attract investors, who are generally driven by the profit motive.

My own view, which I discussed in previous columns, was that his election would not drive American investors in the Philippines to pack up and leave, despite Trump’s strong rhetoric about bringing back jobs to the United States.

I also said that while there might be uncertainty under a Trump presidency, American businesses will not just follow whatever their president said. The ongoing controversy over US President Donald Trump’s immigration ban also showed that he could not always get what he wanted despite being known as the most powerful man in the world.

Last month, Trump issued an executive order suspending immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—for at least 90 days and the refugee program for four months.

The state of Washington filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the ban. In response, a federal judge in Seattle early this month issued a nationwide temporary restraining order to block Trump’s immigration ban.

Subsequently, the US Department of Justice filed an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. On February 9, a three-man appellate court panel denied the appeal.

The unanimous decision by the three judges was described in news reports as a sweeping rebuke of the administration’s claim that the courts have no role as a check on the president.

As far as the Philippines is concerned, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry had been identified as the sector that could be heavily affected if Trump’s protectionist stance prevailed. It employs more than a million Filipinos and generates foreign exchange exceeding $20 billion a year, providing another major dollar stream for the country, in addition to remittances.

The strength of institutions in the US, which also include (aside from the judiciary) the legislature and the press means that the strong statements made by Trump during the campaign, particularly those affecting investors, could eventually fizzle down, allowing US companies to go back to their routine: doing business and making money, such as in their outsourcing operations in the Philippines.

The Philippines, with a strong domestic market and a robust economy, offers competitive advantages as an outsourcing hub for American companies, which dominate the local BPO industry. For example, labor costs in the Philippines are estimated at about 25 percent of US wages. Filipino workers in the information technology and BPO sector are also preferred for their English fluency, compatibility with western culture and excellent work ethics.

The government also has thrown its full support for the BPO industry through incentives. For its part, property developers continue to ramp up construction of office buildings to satisfy the requirements of the BPO companies.

Google, which opened an office in Makati in 2013, says the Philippines is a key market in terms of its digital economy and tech-savvy population. The entry of the technology giant is expected to encourage more technology companies to invest here.

Going forward, I don’t see the BPO industry dying or slowing down significantly. It will survive as long as it remains cost-effective, and as long as the economy sustains strong growth.


Filinvest withdraws SRP lot contract with Cebu City govt

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña with Filinvest senior vice president for VisMin Tristan Las Marias

Filinvest Land, Inc. (FLI) announced on Monday morning their withdrawal from purchasing the 19.2 hectare lot at the South Road Properties (SRP).

FLI senior vice president for VisMin Tristan Las Marias made the announcement together with Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña during a press conference at the Mayor’s Office.

According to Las Marias, the city government failed to comply with their contract agreement which they signed together with SM Holdings Inc. and Ayala Land Inc. in June 2013.

“One of the reasons is that the city government failed to comply with our agreement such as giving us the titles of the property,” said Las Marias.

Osmeña, who earlier questioned the selling of the property that was done during the time of former Mayor Michael Rama, said he was happy that Filinvest decided to withdraw the contract saying they will no longer have to go to court.

He assured Filinvest that the city will refund them of their payment of approximately P4 billion to P5 billion.

Osmeña, however, declined to comment when asked if he was open to talk to SM-Ayala consortium to see if they would also withdraw their purchase of the said property.

Osmeña also announced they are also looking to sell a 3-hectare property in SRP which is located near Filinvest’s Il Corso and City di Mare.

He said they need to dispose of the property within the year to generate income for the city.

When asked if they are interested to buy it, Las Marias said they are looking at the property but has not come up with a final decision yet.