Property developers remain bullish despite slower GDP

By Amor Maclang, published in the Business Mirror.

May 02, 2017

For the past decade or so, one of the biggest drivers of the real-estate industry in the Philippines has been the surge of business brought by outsourcing companies, and rightfully so.

The multinational and multimillion business-process outsourcing industry has been one of the most pivotal players in our country's economy, and a reflection of the world-class skills of our robust work force.

However, I recently had the chance to pick the brains of Christophe Vicic, the country head of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) Philippines, who shared his insights about other drivers that are set to make the Philippine real-estate industry grow and thrive in the next few years, given the right conditions.

"What I found exciting when I first came to the Philippines was the size of the country, and that the GDP was on the streets. Also, growth that is generated in the country stays in the country, and the opportunities can all be transformed into developments," Vicic said. "Once infrastructure booms, the next real-estate players in the country will not be BPOs anymore. They'll still be there but they're not going to be the ones bringing in big growth." What's interesting about his insights was that these growth drivers he's been pointing out are either ripe for the picking or gearing up to create transformative real-estate projects.

More collaborative work

While Vicic sees enormous growth potential in the Philippines, he also believes that private developers and the government need to work on more projects together to start the infrastructure boom needed to spark more opportunities in various industries.

This is where public-private partnerships (PPP) come into the picture. In the broadest sense, these agreements between private firms and the government are geared toward financing, designing, implementing and operating infrastructure, facilities and services, which are typically undertaken by the public sector.

Currently, the government retains ownership of the infrastructure or facility once the project is completed. However, Vicic also sees more funding for mutually beneficial projects coming in if investors could be allowed to attain some ownership of applicable PPPs that they sign up for.

Student accommodations

For the JLL head, the student population has always been a business-worthy market for property developers. Today, however, there is a greater urgency to tap into this opportunity, given the growing number of students moving in and around the country to pursue quality education.

"Student accommodations can be a big opportunity, for Philippine real estate, following the trend of students who need a place to stay near universities," Vicic explained. "Every age bracket will need a certain comfort in their living conditions, students included."​​

International and domestic tourism

Another off-shoot of fruitful PPPs is a revitalized tourism industry, given that many developments will make the country more accessible and traversable to both local and foreign travelers.

This is not limited to major infrastructure, like airports, bridges, ports and other transport hubs. Imagine the government working in tandem with private consultants, real-estate firms, like JLL, and other thought-leaders to push projects related to heritage conservation and world-class private spaces. The result would be a greater pride of place for us Filipinos, and keen interest on cultural experiences unique to the Philippines for adventure-seekers from around the world.

Logistics and warehousing

Drawing from his logistics background with DHL, Vicic sees the logistics industry in the Philippines growing and how the real-estate industry can address its increasing needs.  This can also be attributed to the emerging e-commerce ventures throughout the country. By supplying logistics companies with the warehouses, business hubs and other spaces that they need, developers are set for fruitful partnerships that also add value and variety to their portfolio.

Sustainability and well-being in the workplace

Something I am personally thrilled about is the "Work Smart" concept making its way into most corporate developments in the country. JLL is at the forefront of sustainability and well-being in the workplace, but Vicic also noted that tapping into this opportunity goes beyond merely building smart offices. The infrastructure for a sustainable workplace can be there, but it will not work if the culture is not ready for it.

"It's not good enough to build an office, but you want your employee—who is becoming more knowledgeable, more savvy and more well-traveled—to say, 'Where is my office?' Today, in advanced countries, it's becoming part of employees' decision to work for you if you give them an environment that cares about their well-being."

With bright minds and innovative companies like Vicic and JLL lending their expertise here in the Philippines, I can't help but feel ecstatic about the wealth of opportunities that await the Philippines real-estate industry. While solid players, like the BPO sector, may show signs of slowing down in the next few years, I'm sure that these emerging real-estate drivers will all have their chance to take center stage in this vibrant industry.


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