All of our kababayans who went home for the holidays, as I did, will attest to one thing: infrastructure in the Philippines is booming – our condominiums and skyscrapers are ultra-modern, and the malls and shopping centers in Manila are among the best in the world.
This is not an exaggeration. I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel widely due to my work with the Foreign Service, and I bear witness to the fact that the property developments that have hit the reclaimed Bay Areas in Pasay and Manila, Makati Greenbelt, Fort Bonifacio and Rockwell, combined with the myriad of restaurants, stores, pubs, theaters and entertainment they house, stand out as among the best in the world.
Two factors that are almost unique to the Philippines– healthy remittances from an estimated 10 million Filipinos working overseas and an unprecedented wave of foreign companies setting up backroom and outsourcing operations in the country – are driving a resurgent property industry despite a general slowdown in the local economy as a result of rising prices.
Developers predict a boom in the property sector much bigger than the surge felt prior to the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Global property consultant CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) Philippines general manager Trent Frankum considered the Philippines as the hottest market in Southeast Asia in a speech before regional real estate executives in a Hong Kong convention. The assembly was held to identify real estate investments trends and had the biggest names in the property industry from Asia, Australia and the United Kingdom.
As it is, foreign investors look kindly at the positive effects of the stable Philippine peso, increasing tourist arrivals, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) boom, and the positive effect of OFW dollar remittances into the country.
This year alone, Filipinos working overseas are expected to bring in US$15 billion in remittances. This averages to more than US$1 billion a month, feeding the growth of a bigger middle class jockeying for a piece of real estate which it can call home.
The growing number of tourists is also fueling increased demands for resorts and hotels. Tourist arrivals exceeded two million for the first time since 2004, with roughly 3.091 million registered arrivals last year. New markets such as Russia, the Middle East, China and Korea are expected to help sustain this momentum. CBRE is confident tourism will grow by at least 10% this year, topping 3.4 million or about US$5.8 billion in international tourism receipts.
New hotel and resort developments are currently in strategic business locations such as Makati City, Fort Bonifacio, and the Bay Area as well as top tourist destinations such as Cebu and Boracay.
In reclaimed land along Manila Bay, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is developing an ambitious US$15 billion 120-hectare Entertainment City Manila project with Alliance Global Group Inc (AGI) forming a joint venture with Malaysian gaming giant Genting Berhad and Star Cruises.
The project is envisioned to become one of the premier entertainment destinations in the region, at par with international standards. Among the main features are luxury hotels, amusement parks, meeting and convention facilities, state-of-the-art theaters, a sports stadium, race tracks, shopping malls, restaurants, a professional golf course, museums and cultural complexes, residential villages, a marina and boardwalk and an observation tower which will be among the tallest mega-structures in the world.
Japanese gaming equipment supplier Aruze has teamed up with another giant Wynn Resorts to put up the Okada Resort Manila Bay, which will have 2,000 standard rooms and 300 VIP suites. In it will rise the world’s biggest Oceanarium, theaters, a 40,000-seater Las Vegas-size sports arena, a museum and a giant ferries wheel similar to the London Eye (to be called the Manila Eye).
The Genting-AGI consortium will build several hotels with a minimum 2,000-room capacity, a world-class theme park, a museum and an iconic building similar to the Opera House of Australia. SM Investments Corporation on the other hand is proposing to build a world-class gaming facility with Asia Pacific Gaming of Australia.
This is just the spearhead of a massive infrastructure renaissance that will include all the major cities and destinations of the Philippines, such as Davao, Cebu, the Calabarzon area, Subic and the rest of Metro Manila.
Philippine Ambassador to Canada Jose S. Brillantes’s advice for would-be investors is to put in their money now. “If you are thinking of investing in a condominium unit in the Philippines, the time to buy is now”, he said. “As soon as these new infrastructures begin to rise, so will real estate prices. Thus, the time to invest is now, as the growth slope is steeply rising”, the Ambassador adds.
Those who have been to the Philippines lately have seen it for themselves. Philippine properties are hot, and as the saying goes, that is the time to strike.