MANILA, March 30, 2006
 (STAR) By Marianne V. Go - Respected architect Gilbert Yu yesterday urged the government to help the private sector promote the Philippines as a competitive alternative to foreign real estate buyers looking for a retirement haven or a second home.

Attracting foreign real estate buyers, Yu estimated, could easily bring in between P50 billion and P200 billion to the country.

According to Yu, the Philippines is an ideal location for a retirement or a second home because of its warm climate, urban amenities, an English-speaking population, medical facilities, availability and abundance of caregivers and household workers and a relatively terrorist-safe environment.

The cost of real estate in the Philippines, Yu said, is so much cheaper than in Mexico, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom or Hong Kong.

Foreigners have no cause to worry about the current political noise, Yu assured, because majority of Filipinos and the local business community are now leaning towards the administration and long-term stability.

Yu noted that the public sentiment is now leaning toward the administration rather than to the opposition.

"People have learned from hard experience not to side with the opposition because it only results in more instability," Yu said.

Thus, having learned our lesson, Yu predicts that the Philippines would become peaceful in the next three to five years.

Yu pointed out that in his numerous travels abroad, he has seen that foreign buyers readily invest in real estate in warm locations such as the so-called Mexican Riviera.

Yu said that most of the buyers in Mexico are Americans.

In Asia, Yu said, the Philippines should target financially well-off

Japanese and Taiwanese and even the increasingly affluent mainland Chinese.

The target market, Yu said, should be those aged between 55 to 75 years old who are already retired, are financially secure and still able to live independently.

Yu calls the target market as "the donít want to admit generation" who have chosen to avail of an early retirement package, are healthy, adventurous and can still live independently without a caregiver.

The ideal location for such people, Yu said, is Makati or the Fort because of its urban amenities, proximity to a commercial and entertainment area, business, medical facilities and to the airport.

The real estate of choice for such people, Yu said, would be "value for their money" condominium developments which are secure and could easily be locked up when they have to go abroad.

The Philippines, Yu stressed, offers more than Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia primarily because of its English-speaking population and its mainly Catholic people.

Most foreigners, Yu pointed out, are wary of Muslim countries and would thus prefer a Catholic country that does not present a possible terrorist threat.

Yu praised President Arroyo for her strategic decision to pull out Filipino troops from Iraq, thus removing the Philippines as a possible terrorist target because of its alliance with the US.

Filipinos, Yu added, are also well-known as good caregivers and would thus be an attraction for retirees who may need assisted living in the future.

The cost of living in the Philippinies, Yu elaborated, is also so much cheaper citing a normal budget of at least $70,000 a year for a retiree in the US.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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