MANILA, APRIL 20, 2007 (STAR) By Zinnia B. Dela Peña - Beer and tobacco magnate Lucio Tan said yesterday that the Philippines is experiencing a sustained real estate boom as he parried criticism that his group’s entry into the property sector may be a bit too late.

"While our entry into property development may be considered by many as late, I say we are just right on time. We are now on a real estate boom which many believe will be longer-lasting than the one we enjoyed in the 90s," said Tan, who chairs Eton Properties Philippines Inc. (formerly Balabac Resources & Holdings Co.).

Tan said the real estate industry has bright prospects given robust inflows of remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the fast-growing business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, record tourist arrivals, and a growing economy.

"There are many developments that are helping the current boom which were not present before: Remittances from our overseas workers now average $1 billion per month and most of these are being used to buy houses and condominums," Tan said.

He said the "enactment of the dual citizenship law in the United States also encouraged Filipino immigrants to buy properties in the Philippines as vacation and retirement havens."

Also spurring the growth of the property market is the passage of the Special Purpose Vehicle law which made available a large inventory of real property at "fire sale" prices.

"These factors plus the improvement in our country’s fiscal situation all support the growing business optimism that real property will drive our economy in the next five to 10 years," Tan said.

"As a ‘latecomer’ in the business, we will draw on the experiences of those who went ahead of us and ensure that we create a working organization that will be attuned to the demands of the market, yet effectively insulated against the inherent risks in the business," Tan pointed out.

Eton plans to concentrate on residential condominiums and housing, office buildings, condotels, commercial centers and leisure and retirement projects.

Tan agave assurances that all its real estate projects in the Philippines would be developed with the same quality as its counterpart Eton Properties Ltd. which has luxury hotels, residential condominiums, offices and commercial enclaves in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Xiamen and Beijing.

He said Eton properties will tap the huge land bank of the Tan Group of Companies which include Philippine National Bank, Allied Bank, Philippine Airlines and other realty firms.

Tan said the synergy between Eton and the other members of the Tan Group of Companies will put them at a competitive advantantage.

"With our group’s resources and strengths, there will be less need for fresh capital but more opportunities for synergy," Tan said.

Eton Properties president Danilo Ignacio said the company has earmarked P10 billion this year for the development of its seven priority projects in line with its goal to become one of the top five developers in the country.

Among the projects under construction or scheduled to start development this year include the 39-story Eton Residences Greenbelt (the first all-loft luxury condominium in Makati), the Eton IT Center in Ortigas ( a 17-story building that will provide a 30,000 square meterspace for BPO companies), Eton Residences Ortigas (two 38-story towers with a retail component), and Eton Residences Rizal park (a 23-story residential condominium project to rise on a 744 square meter lot at the corner of Roxas Boulevard and Kalaw St. in Manila).

Ignacio said the company will start building next year a multi-billion peso integrated township in a sprawling 1,000-hectare property in Sta. Rosa, Laguna which is being groomed as the new Makati of the South.

The property dubbed Eton Mega City, will have commercial, residential developments, school, hotel and a leisure/retirement mecca. It lies at the entrance of the current Asia Brewery/ Greenfield interchange.

Ignacio said Eton is also finalizing the master plan for Eton City Mactan (formerly the Coral Reef Resort), which will transform the 34-hectare property into a tourism estate that will house a five-star hotel, condotels, residential condominiums and luxury garden villas.

Funding for the company’s projects will come from either fresh capital infusion or a possible share offering, Ignacio said.

Eton Properties has a vast landbank located in the Makati and Ortigas CBDs, Manila/Pasay/Paranaque Bay Area, Mactan Beach, Cabuyao, Calatagan and other strategic locations in the Philippines.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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