Mactan Newtown reflects renewed confidence
in PH economy

Cebu Daily News | Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Mactan NewtownPresident Aquino yesterday lauded property developer Megaworld Corp for choosing Cebu as the location for its next flagship development after Manila’s Eastwood City, saying they “made the right choice”.

“This is your first project outside Metro Manila, and the people from around here can assure you that you’ve made the right choice,” the President said in his speech at yesterday’s launch of The Mactan Newtown.

“If there is any place where you can replicate your success in such projects in Metro Manila, it’s here in Cebu. The workers you will find here are skillful, creative, light-hearted, while possessing an unshakeable pride in the quality of their work.”

Megaworld’s increased confidence in Cebu’s potential prompted the property developer to double its investment in the Mactan Newtown project. Megaworld chairman and CEO Andrew Tan said from P10 billion, they will be spending P20 billion for the development of 20 hectares of prime property in the next five to seven years. He said they were encouraged with the fast take up of their first two residential condominium development — the 8 Newtown Boulevard — which is now almost sold out. Most of the investors were Japanese retirees.

“In the next five to seven years, we are investing P20 billion in this township to build luxury residential condominiums, office towers, a world-class lifestyle mall, our very own Richmonde Hotel and soon, a sports and leisure facility,” he said.

Yesterday’s launch came seven months since the President proclaimed Mactan Newtown as a mixed-use special economic zone for information technology, tourism and retirement under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). As a special zone, Mactan Newtown enjoys tax incentives and holidays for investors.

The President said developments such as the ones undertaken by Megaworld is an indication of investors’ renewed confidence in his administration’s economic development initiatives.

“Projects like this are valuable checkpoints for us – showing that, indeed, we have made progress,” Mr Aquino said.

Anticipating a more vibrant inflow of tourists as the economy improves, the President likewise announced that the government has raised the domestic tourism target for 2016 to 56.1 million travelers from the original target of 35.5 million.

“Our revisions are a result of some very good news I received from our Tourism Secretary (Ramon) Jimenez, which I am really excited to share with you,” Mr. Aquino said.

In 2011, the government recorded 37.5 million domestic travelers, he said. “Just to put this number into perspective, this already surpassed our original 2016 target of 35.5 million domestic travelers. Given this very positive growth in domestic travel, Secretary Jimenez and the (Department of Tourism) has raised the 2016 domestic tourism target to 56.1 million travelers,” he said. But the President did not say how the government is tracking Filipino tourists, or whether the figures are based solely on plane ticket sales, or other modes of transportation such as ferries and buses.

“By then (2016), we expect that we will need more than 37,000 additional rooms in our destination clusters, which includes Cebu,” Mr. Aquino said.

“For example, part of this complex will include a hotel, which will help us provide the rooms to reach our revised target for domestic and international tourists,” Mr. Aquino said.

Just two weeks ago, the President admitted in Dipolog City that the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China had taken its toll on the country’s tourism industry.

The DOT’s failure to meet its target of 4.6 million tourist arrivals last year was blamed on the tensions between the two countries over rival claims to territory in the West Philippine Sea. (See related story on page 9)

The DOT has launched an aggressive campaign to direct tourist traffic to the many islands of the country using slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”

The program’s ultimate goal is to register 10 million tourist arrivals by the time Mr. Aquino steps down in 2016. A total of 4,272,811 tourists visited the country last year, the first time the country breached the 4-million mark.

Although the target for the year was missed, the DOT earlier said in a statement that the figure was a 9.07-percent increase over the 3,917,454 tourists in 2011. Although he did not specifically name China, Mr. Aquino alluded to a “big nation” that jeopardized the DOT’s target in 2012. But he said he remained upbeat about the sudden influx of tourists to the Philippines considering the measly tourist arrivals during the nine years and a half under his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“The tourist arrivals, for the entire nine and a half years, were perhaps 1.6 million or 1.9 million. But it eventually reached 3 million. In the two years that we’re in charge, the 3 million almost became 4.6 (million) last year. But our target (for 2016 is) 10 million. So why did we fail to hit 4.6 million?” he asked, pointing out that the DOT recorded only 4.3 million tourist arrivals in 2012. “Despite a few bumps on the road, all key source markets still registered positive growth for the year,” Jimenez said, adding that despite the lack of infrastructure in the country’s countless attractions, he still believed crossing the 5 million mark in 2013 was achievable.

Megaworld’s Tan, in a statement, said the Mactan Newtown will serve as a major driver of growth for Lapu Lapu City and Cebu in general in terms of job opportunities, sports and recreation, retail shopping and of course, tourism.

“What we have done in Eastwood, we are bringing them here in Cebu, here at The Mactan Newtown,” said Tan, referring to Eastwood City, Megaworld’s first township development and the country’s first cyberpark.

Megaworld has teamed up with the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), allowing foreigners who want to retire in The Mactan Newtown to obtain Special Resident Retiree’s Visas.

As a cyberpark, Mactan Newtown is expected to generate employment for 25,000 full-time business process outsourcing workers within five to seven years. Two BPO companies, EnfraUSA and Results Manila, expected to start their operations by April. These companies will occupy the five-story One World Center, the first office tower to rise in the township. Around 1,400 workers will be employed by the two companies. Both are first-time locators in Cebu.

“We have fully leased out One World Center, so we will be starting the construction of our second BPO tower, Two World Center, this year. It will accommodate an additional 2,000 workers. We hope to have it ready by first quarter of next year as several big BPO companies are already lining up to lease,” said Jericho Go, Megaworld first vice president for business development and leasing group.

In two to three years, office space for lease is seen to grow as 8 Newtown Boulevard and Pacific World Tower open for business. Both towers will accommodate around 13,000 BPO seats.

The first fastfood tenant to open in the township project last December at the ground floor of One World Center was McDonald’s, the biggest in Central Visayas in terms of seating capacity.

Megaworld also has plans to bring the world-class concept of Megaworld Lifestyle Malls to The Mactan Newtown to provide residents and BPO employees a unique experience in shopping, dining, leisure and entertainment.

Investment hub

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza believes that Mactan Newtown will further soup up the city’s image as an investment hub of the province.

“Daghan ni matabang sa amoa, it really can change and makadugang ug maayo sa economy,” Radaza said. “Proud kaayo ko kay dako ni nga investment compared with other cities. Monindot na jud ug samot ang Lapu-Lapu.”

Despite belonging to a different political party, Radaza, who is seeking for re-election under Lakas Kampi, said that her support for President Benigno Aquino III, will always be there.

“Kani akoang gibuhat i-suporta mani ug trabaho pud nako”. /Reporters Jucell Marie P. Cuyos and Aileen Garcia-Yap and INQUIRER