By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net MAKATI CITY, Philippines -- Issues concerning the housing project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) agency Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) remained unsettled and continued to divide ITDI employees after two meetings held Thursday. The housing project involves six parcels of land in barangay Molino in Bacoor, Cavite. The land, which has a total area of 244,456 square meters, was used as an agricultural research site by the ITDI, formerly known as the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). When ITDI was reorganized in 1987, its agricultural research functions were transferred to University of the Philippines Los Baños. In 1992, a resolution was passed to use the land as housing project for ITDI employees, which was made legal by the issuance of Executive Order 137 signed by President Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo in October 2002. “The main issues are summed up in two words: affordability and transparency,” said Natividad Villostas, senior science research specialist of material science division at ITDI. After years of discussion with the Molino Task Force, Villostas said the body handling the project failed to ensure that ITDI employees could avail of the housing project. She said the project lot allocation is questionable and the pricing for house and lots were beyond the capacity of over 80 percent of the ITDI employees. Meanwhile, senior science research specialist and co-chair of Molino Task Force Elvira Viros insisted that the task force has done its job to set and keep the project in motion. During a general meeting Thursday, Viros presented the history of the project and stressed they have been transparent. She said the task force has been reporting the progress of the project by holding general assemblies and posting documents in bulletin boards across the DOST campus in Taguig. Villostas, however, denied that the Molino Task Force has been transparent, citing several observations. She said the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the project were written without consultation with the ITDI employees and was only presented to them generally and was even amended allegedly without the employees’ knowledge. Viros, for her part, stressed that in 2004, the task force released and circulated to division heads the amendments, which were discussed in an executive committee meeting and published on the monthly paper “ITDI Miscellaneous.” During Thursday’s meeting, Mylene Rivera, director of Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), pointed out that the HUDCC could not intervene “since the problem is internal and must be fixed by the ITDI management.” In a core group meeting held after Thursday’s general meeting, Rivera suggested to let phase 1 of development continue since there are target dates of completion for the project. She also urged the body to start working on site 2 of the housing project so it can be developed simultaneously with site 1 next year. Rivera assigned the Molino Task Force to conduct another survey of ITDI employees and find out how much they are willing to pay for the housing program if they are interested to purchase a property. She added the task force can revisit the land size allocation and the offer a “cost-competitive” choice of the ITDI employees. Based on the IRR of the housing project, phase one includes development of 131,193 square meters of the total area. Moldex was tapped as developer of the project phase one, which Villostas pointed out has pending cases. ITDI director Nuna Almanzor was not present during both meetings.
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By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.NET MANILA, Philippines -- In an effort to promote excellence among the country's budding architects and design engineers, Environments Global Foundation (EGF) launched two programs aimed at the country's architecture and engineering educational institutions. EGF is a corporate social responsibility group of the architectural and construction group Environments Global. The two programs are the Lines to Lives Academic Excellence Award in Architecture and the Red Point Award. The Lines to Lives is a planned annual search for the most outstanding student of architecture. Participating students must have a grade point average of 1.25, with no failure or incomplete grades. EGF has partnered with the University of the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas, and the Mapua Institute of Technology as part of the pilot program of the Lines to Lives, which would run from 2008 to 2009. There would be three final winners for Lines to Lives and each will receive P150,000. Meanwhile, the Red Point Award is an undertaking between AGF and the Council of Deans and Heads of Architecture Schools in the Philippines. Its purpose is to find the best thesis from architecture students in the country. Similar to Lines for Lives, there will also be three final winners for Red Point Award and each will win P100,000 each. Winners will be announced and awarded in June 2009. In an interview, EGF President Antony Zubiri said the two programs aim to encourage budding architecture students to excel in their chosen course. He said the Philippines' architectural schools produce among the best architects who work in major design companies abroad. "By providing students with a venue to develop their skills, we will create an environment for excellence among future Filipino architects," Zubiri said.
By Daxim Lucas Philippine Daily Inquirer THE CONGLOMERATE Ayala Corp. and its real estate arm said they hade entered into a joint venture with India’s Mahindra Group to develop an exclusive residential community in one of the subcontinent’s major cities. In a statement to the stock exchange, Ayala Corp. and Ayala Land Inc. said the deal involved development of a high-end housing enclave in the 1,500-acre Mahindra World City (MWC) in Chennai, India. The joint venture, Mahindra Residential Developers Ltd., will be 51-percent owned by the Mahindra Group and 49 percent by ARCH Capital Asian Partners L.P., a private real estate fund managed by Ayala affiliate ARCH Capital Management Co. Ltd. The project will be on about 55 acres of land in the MWC special economic zone, which is designated for low-density residential community development, Ayala Land said in a statement. The exclusive community of about 750 residential units will be planned and designed by international planners and architects with amenities, development standards and an urban environment not commonly found in India, Ayala Land said. The joint venture through ARCH Capital represents Ayala’s first major foray into the Indian real estate market, Ayala Land chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala said in the statement. “We continue to see good growth prospects in India and we are delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this momentum through our partnership with the Mahindra Group.” Ayala Corp. and Ayala Land did not disclose the financial terms of the deal. Zobel said the Ayala group’s newly established regional property investment firm, Fidelis Holdings, had been “actively exploring opportunities to expand [its] international activities in this arena.” MWC, a pioneering effort of Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd., the publicly listed real estate and infrastructure arm of the Mahindra Group, reflects Mahindra’s vision for a world-class special economic zone catering to investors and manufacturers in automotive accessories, information technology and apparel industries. Ayala Land president Jaime Ayala (no relation to the Zobel de Ayala family) meanwhile said Ayala Land expected to report strong sales in the first quarter despite a market slowdown caused by the US subprime mortgage crisis. He said Ayala Land was refocusing its selling efforts for the US market—a major source of sales last year—from high-end property units to more affordable housing in view of an expected drop in spending power of US-based Filipinos. With editing by INQUIRER.net
By Daxim Lucas Philippine Daily Inquirer FINANCIAL losses of the tobacco tycoon Lucio Tan’s Eton Properties Philippines Inc. widened significantly at the end of last year as the company embarked on an aggressive spending program to get its first projects off the ground. But its total assets were close to hitting the P1-billion mark a year after it was founded, Eton said. In a statement, Eton said its net loss at the end of 2007 reached P146.7 million, 664-percent bigger than the P19.1-million loss it reported in April last year. It said it expected to start earning sales revenues this year. Eton said its assets had reached P980 million at the end of 2007, up 165 percent from the asset base it disclosed in its last reporting period. It said there was brisk take-up of its projects, two of which -- The Eton Residences Greenbelt and Eton Baypark Manila -- had been fully reserved from launch date. Cash and near-cash assets rose to P395.1 million as of the latest reckoning, up 324 percent from a year earlier, Eton said. It said its growth trend was expected to continue especially since deposits made by early buyers had reached P701.5 million, up 2,308 percent from April 30, 2007. It said the increase in deposits was due to “record reservations of its four other projects launched within the year.” The company’s projects include Eton Emerald Lofts in the Ortigas business district, Belton Place and Eton Parkview Greenbelt in the Makati business district, and One Archers Place in Manila. Edited by INQUIRER.net
By Rosemarie Francisco Reuters MERLY PAZ, a Filipina domestic worker in Hong Kong, has stopped sending money for the construction of her home in southern Iriga City because the peso value of her US dollar-pegged salary has fallen sharply. "My salary is limited so I placed the house on hold," said 31-year-old Paz who has been working in Hong Kong for nearly eight years. "But the longer I'm putting it on hold, the more that prices of construction materials are rising." A real estate boom in the Philippines has been powered by demand from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) such as Paz who send home salaries to fund purchases and construction of family homes. But many OFWs have had to cut back on property purchases recently as the peso value of their salaries dropped by 19 percent in the past year due to the weak US dollar. A majority of the Philippines' eight million OFWs work in the United States. This drop in demand should have had a chilling effect on the Philippine property sector, where real estate prices surged 18 percent in 2007 and 38 percent in 2006 largely because of demand from OFWs. Indeed, share prices of property firms have plunged over a slowdown in overseas sales and worries of mortgage defaults. But domestic sales are being kept buoyant by a huge housing backlog, low interest rates and friendly payment terms, higher incomes of workers in the growing outsourcing industry, and a rising expatriate population. The slowdown in construction of new housing after the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 has led to a housing backlog of 3.8 million units in the Philippines, said Alex Pomento, strategist and head of research at Macquarie Securities. About 70 percent of the country's estimated 90 million population do not have their own homes, he said. "It's end-user demand driven. It is not investor driven, that's the difference with the property boom before the Asian crisis," said Victor Asuncion, director at property services firm CB Richard Ellis Philippines. "It is not speculative. There is a specific demand being addressed." Construction is booming across much of the country, especially in Manila, a mostly low-rise city where dozens of residential towers are beginning to dot the skyline. At least 38,000 new apartments will be available by 2013 in the Makati financial district alone and in nearby Bonifacio Global City, property firms say. There is no let-up in demand. In just four days last month, market leader Ayala Land Inc sold about a third of the P3.3-billion value of a new residential tower at Bonifacio Global City. "They say the property market is slowing. But despite the slower US sales for our premier product, we really can't feel it yet because the local market is still strong," said Rex Mendoza, head of residential and corporate sales at ALI. Take-up rates or reservations for all its residential projects are up 39 percent in the first two months of the year, the same pace as the whole of 2007. But the surge in real estate prices seems to be a thing of the past. Pomento said he saw prices rising about 6 percent in 2008 and next year. "The days of aggressive growth appear to be behind us," he said. "We expect price hikes to be capped by the more competitive environment." At least partly because of that, local property firms have sustained heavy falls on the stock market, with ALI down nearly 25 percent and mass housing leader Vista Land and Lifescapes falling 50 percent in the first quarter against a 17.6-percent drop in the main index in the same period. "On a 12-month view, the negatives cannot be disregarded and the market is already trying to price in the concerns ahead of any negative news from property companies," CLSA said in a recent study on the Philippine property market. Real estate firms say the fall is more because of depressed sentiment overall and that while local demand for housing is strong, they haven't given up on the overseas market. In the first two months of this year, ALI says its sales to Filipinos abroad were down to 22 percent of total housing revenues against 35 percent for all of 2007. To offset falling demand from the United States and Hong Kong where the local currency is pegged against the US dollar and where many OFWs work, property firms are now aggressively selling their residential projects to OFWs in the Middle East and Europe. "I think our growth potential will continue so I'm hoping the market will recognize that," said ALI President Jaime Ayala, adding the share price was "very much driven by global sentiment."
By Philippine Daily Inquirer ROBINSONS Land Corp. said it would merge the operations of its three wholly owned real estate units -- Robinsons Homes Inc., Trion Homes Development Corp., and Manila Midtown Hotels and Land Corp. -- and fold them into the parent company. It said the merger would “integrate administrative processes and eliminate the duplication of functions” among the three units and increase overall financial strength and credit standing. The merger will be presented for approval at the annual meeting of stockholders in April, it said. Robinsons Land operates shopping centers, high-rise residential condominiums and townhouses, mid- to low-cost housing and subdivisions, office buildings and hotels. It has 20 malls, 22 residential condominium buildings, five office buildings, 26 housing and land development projects and three hotels. Edited by INQUIRER.net
By Doris Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer THE PHILIPPINE property sector may be close to hitting the peak of a post-Asian-crisis cycle, as analysts expect robust demand to extend for about two to three more years. Analysts and bankers said low interest rates and big demand from end-users were supporting appetite for real estate -- the exact opposite of the situation 10 years ago when people were buying real estate on speculation that prices would rise further. “I think we're closer to the top” of the cycle, said Michael Manuel, chief investment officer of Sun Life of Canada (Philippines) Inc. “A lot of things are going on in the property market, but if you look at the supply that’s being built now, I think come 2009 and 2010, we’ll probably see some kind of peaking.” Manuel told the Inquirer that in 2005 people were not too confident on the domestic economy expanding at a robust pace. He added the construction of buildings only started in 2006. “If it takes three years to put up a building, then all of the supply will come in 2009 and 2010,” Manuel said. “While I feel like the property sector has a way to go -- because of the vacancies right now which are still pretty tight at below single digits -- once supply comes in 2009-2010, we may see some plateauing.” Aurelio Montinola III, president of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), noted that real estate prices today are still 15 percent lower than the levels seen during the height of the Asian currency crisis ten years ago. In disposing of its idle property assets, BPI has seen a significant improvement in valuation deals, Montinola said. “Previously, we were giving discounts of 30 percent,” he said. “Today, we give discounts of five to 10 percent for the big pieces, and there are pieces that we can sell at appraised or higher-than appraised value.” Alfonso Salcedo, president of BPI Family Bank, agreed that the real estate boom could still last for up to three years, supported by low interest rates which make it more affordable for people to finance housing requirements. Salcedo said bulk of the housing borrowers today are people who buy real estate units for their own or their family's use -- vastly different from the situation 10 years ago. Manuel said that in 1997, “property purchases were more speculative than anything, so it was easy to give up on payments.” “Now the units -- such as those bought by OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] -- are those where their families live,” he added. As of end-September, the combined real estate exposures of Philippine commercial banks amounted to P220 billion, up 2.4 percent over a year earlier, according to the latest central bank data. The majority, or 96.8 percent of the sector’s total real estate exposure, was held by the banks proper, while the remaining 3.2 percent was accounted for by their trust departments. Loans extended for the construction and development of commercial properties, including infrastructure projects, comprised the bulk at 79.9 percent, or P154 billion, while the remaining 20.1 percent, or P38.6 billion, was granted for the acquisition of residential units by individual homeowners/borrowers. Past-due real estate loans fell by 17 percent to P15 billion from the previous quarter's P18.1 billion. “The improvement was mainly due to banks’ rigorous collection, settlement, restructuring and foreclosure efforts,” the central bank reported. Consequently, past-due real estate loans fell to 7.8 percent of total loans from 9.4 percent a quarter earlier and 13.9 percent a year earlier.
By Philippine Daily Inquirer PROPERTY developer Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. hopes to generate as much as P50 billion in sales this year with the launch of 40 projects, company president Benjamarie Serrano said. “We are seeing a pre-1997 [property] boom without the speculation,” Serrano said. She expected sales to continue to come from overseas Filipino workers, who account for more than half of Vista Land’s buyers. In the first quarter of 2008, Vista Land will launch its condominium project on Emerald Avenue in Ortigas, Pasig City, in joint venture with beauty products maker Splash Corp., Serrano said. She added that Vista Land was looking to reassert its dominance in the affordable-housing segment through its C&P Homes subsidiary. Most of its projects will be in Luzon but Vista Land is set to launch projects in the southern cities of Cebu and Davao to take advantage of the growing market in the provinces, she added. Vista Land, controlled by the family of Senate President Manuel Villar, will increase its budget for capital expenses this year to P13.0 billion from P7.7 billion in 2007, Serrano said. Vista Land covers all segments of the property market, with C&P Homes for mass housing and Brittany for high-end subdivisions. It sells middle income housing projects through Crown Asia. Elizabeth Sanchez-Lacson; with INQUIRER.net
By Suzzane Salva-Alueta Cebu Daily News CEBU CITY, Philippines--Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said it was time the Capitol updated its schedule of fair market values of land in the province -- the basis for computing real property taxes. She said taxes collected by the provincial government were based on the 2002 schedule of fair market values. With three Cebu towns recently upgraded to cities, exempting them from sharing their real property taxes with the provincial government, Garcia said the Capitol has to make up for the lost revenue. “As much as possible, we do not want to burden the people. But now, our peso is strong, our economy is good. We have not amended the market schedule for a long, long time. So I hope they (constituents) will understand,” she said. According to the LGC, local government units are allowed to do a general revision of property assessment every three years. The tax issue was among the topics discussed by the provincial board during its out-of-town session in Balamban town on Monday. “It’s really a concern. Unless that amendment passes in Congress in regards to the share of component cities under the Local Government Code (LGC), we will have to brace ourselves for a significant reduction in the revenues of the province,” Garcia told the Cebu Provincial Board on Monday. Provincial Assessor Anthony Sususco said it was he who recommended that the schedule of market values be updated. He said he submitted a proposal to the Provincial Board last week to increase the schedule of market values by 50 to 75 percent. “I hope they would approve it this year so that we can conduct a mass appraisal and revision of taxes of properties by next year. Then we can implement the increase by 2009,” Sususco said. The total assessed value of the province’s real properties is P14 billion. The provincial government has a target tax collection of P280-million annually. Sususco said that if the proposal to increase the schedule of market values is approved, then the province’s total assessed value of its properties could reach P21 billion, with a target collection of P440 million. Starting 2008, Cebu Province would no longer receive a share of real property taxes collected in Bogo, Carcar and Naga, all of which became component cities of Cebu province this year. With the potential decrease in revenues for the province caused by the status change of these cities, Representative Pablo John Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district), filed a bill in Congress seeking to require component cities of provinces to continue sharing their real property taxes with the province. In an interview with the governor after the session, Governor Garcia explained that for several years, Capitol chose not to raise the schedule of market values, concentrating instead on intensifying tax collection. She said the province was especially affected by the conversion of Naga into a component city, since it was the town that contributed the most in the entire province in terms of real property taxes. Naga is the site of several large industrial facilities, mostly relating to power generation and cement production.
By Nestor P. Burgos Jr. Inquirer Visayas Bureau ILOILO CITY--Megaworld Corp. will pour an initial investment of P1.5 billion into its newly acquired 54-hectare property, where the old Iloilo airport used to stand. Megaworld, which acquired the property in Mandurriao District for P1.2 billion, plans to build a business park here. "This is our first major investment outside of Manila," said Kingson Sian of Megaworld Corp. during Friday's turnover ceremony at the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center. "This shows how much we are bullish and committed to Iloilo." Sian said the Iloilo site comprised half the land area of Megaworld's other properties. Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said Megaworld's project is the single biggest investment in Iloilo City. "This is a historic turnover," said Treñas. "We will build a new city within a city." Megaworld is known for developing high-end properties including residential and commercial projects. Among its biggest projects are the Empire East Land Holdings Inc. and Empire East Properties Inc. It was the only firm among prospective buyers that submitted a bid that met the P1.2-billion minimum price set by the government for the property. Robinson's Lands had submitted a bid of P1.09 billion; Empire East, P701 million and SM Prime, P435.79 million. Megaworld plans to put up residential units; a hotel and convention center; commercial and retail stores; recreation centers and skills development facilities. Sian said they are optimistic that Iloilo would become among the world's top business process outsourcing centers. Employment in call centers are expected to increase from the 200,000 workers in 2006 to a million by 2010, said Sian. Key to the investment is the manpower supply that is expected to be fulfilled by the many colleges and universities in the city. Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, who attended the turnover rites, said the Megaworld investment "shows that there is a lot of potential in Iloilo."