Cebu real estate developers are looking west at Balamban town, the shipbuilding capital of the Philippines, as they see more opportunities for growth with the town which is considering shifting its focus on other economic drivers that will usher in more expansions in the coming years.
The town, which is 63.9 km west of Cebu City, is the country’s shipbuilding capital for being an industry pioneer, as it is home to internationally recognized shipbuilders such as Austal Philippines Pty. Ltd. and Tsuneishi Heavy Industries (Cebu) Inc.
However, Balamban, which has benefited from the industry-related businesses of the shipbuilding industry in the last decade, is considering shifting its focus on other economic drivers because of the town’s space constraints.
“Shipbuilding in the town is limited at present because of constraints in space. Companies can no longer expand. In fact, Tsuneishi has expanded to Negros (Oriental) because of this limitation,” said Roy Soledad, head of the Cebu Provincial Investment Promotions Office.
Aside from shipbuilding, businesses such as ship repair, aluminum vessel fabrication, and industrial gas production also thrive in the town.
Soledad said he would be expecting shipbuilding companies to maintain their pace, but he would no longer see further expansion in the area.
However, he said that there is huge potential in real estate developments in the town as more developers see the benefits of investing in Balamban.
“The local government is much open to land developers interested in putting up subdivisions, other housing projects, and even retirement homes,” he added.
He explained that Balamban is a combination of flat, hilly, and mountainous areas so it has a lot to offer to tourists and retirees.
Foressa Balamban Project
Among the biggest real estate projects to watch out for in Balamban is AboitizLand’s Foressa Mountain Town, a “multi-billion-peso” project soon to be realized on a 300-hectare expanse in Barangay Cansomoroy.
“We’re very much involved in the development of Balamban, with the shipyard and industrial zone. That has clearly opened up the west coast to opportunities and economic activity,” said Andoni Aboitiz, AboitizLand chief executive officer, at the launch of Foressa Cebu recently.
Aboitiz said the property was purchased 20 years ago with the vision that Balamban would take the step toward embracing residential development.
He added that when the Transcentral Highway was built, everything changed for the town and the rest of Midwest Cebu.
The 33-kilometer Transcentral Highway is an alternative mountain route connecting Cebu City to Balamban town in the west and was opened in the early 1990s. This highway makes Foressa Cebu property just a 90-minute drive from Cebu City.
“We felt that Cebu was ready for a mountain town. We felt that Cebuanos were ready for that as a second home. It’s a very unique location, very accessible, and land (prices are) still quite reasonable,” said Aboitiz.
Development of the horizontal residential community, Foressa Mountain Town, which is set in rolling terrain and flat areas, will be in four phases.
The first phase, which is made up of 51.5 hectares, is set to start in the fourth quarter of 2017.
An initial 114 lots are available to the market with cuts ranging from a minimum of 300 square meters to a maximum of 690 square meters with turnover targeted in 2020.
Aboitiz said phase one alone is estimated to cost P300 million to P400 million.
The Foressa Cebu targets young families as well as close-to-retiree and the retiree market.
Other property projects
Other real estate projects in the town are the completed three-hectare San Josemaria Village by Cebu Landmasters, Inc. and the Amongsagana retirement village project by Singapore-based developer Syntech Properties, Inc.
Amongsagana, which means “our abundance,” is a premier-class residential subdivision for active retirees set to rise on 32 hectares of rolling terrain situated at an average altitude of 200 meters above sea level on Mandayao Hills.
Soledad, for his part, said prospective developers may also target foreign executives, managers, and contractors working for the town’s shipbuilding industry.
While prices of land in Balamban are not that high compared to places closer to Cebu City, alienable and disposable land in the town only stands at 55 percent.
Based on data from the CIPO, Balamban has a total land area of 33,700 hectares, 44 percent of which is classified as timberland while the remaining 55 percent is alienable and disposable.
“In terms of land area for development, it is already very limited. But they can always find areas where they can build small projects. Developments that require small spaces are still very suitable,” Soledad said.
Soledad also said Balamban’s accessibility in the west, north and south of Cebu would make it an ideal area to capture markets from all over.
Besides real estate development, Soledad said the town is also looking at agro-tourism and is opening its doors to investors interested in abaca, cut flowers such as those in Barangay Busay in Cebu City, and cacao, which got a boost from Cebu chocolate queen Raquel Choa’s chocolate business.
He said the municipal government is also open to investors of medical facilities, training centers for industry-related skills, and commercial centers such as malls and fast food restaurants.
Other than these, Balamban also relies on agriculture, fishing, local manufacturing, as well as small, medium, and large enterprises.
Balamban is considered to be among the most active local government units in Cebu in terms of investment promotion, Soledad said.
He said the municipal government already has an existing investment and incentives code as well as an economic investment and incentives center, the creation of which is specified in the code.
“Balamban is very accommodating and supportive to investors. They can contact the local government or just walk in the office and they will be provided with support,” said Soledad.
By: Victor Anthony V. Silva | Cebu Daily News | April 28, 2017