Building the Next Manila

There is a ready smile on the lips of lawyer Romeo G. Roxas these days. He exudes optimism. The optimism is remarkable considering what businessmen, from banker Al Yuchengco to telecom tycoon Jaime Augusto Zobel have conceded to be very challenging times. The A to Z of doing business has been tough of late, what with what Ayala Land Chairman FernandoZobel de Ayala calls "the volatile political condition and the constant threat of terrorism that put business and the economy in the doldrums."

Coping with such a situation requires enormous steadfastness. And Romy shows it. He winces at the doomsday attitude of many analysts. "We must never lose the one attitude and perspective that inspires us to go on dreaming of making it through against all odd," he urges.

Romy is into banking and property, two businesses that require oodles and oodles of positive attitude for one to survive and succeed. He is the single largest owner of Veterans bank  His company also owns the single biggest privately owned land in Aurora and Quezon provinces

In the land named after the late president and his wife, Roxas has master-planned 80,000 hectares of raw land from where he will carve out five major cities – one each for industry, for education, for tourism, for workers, and for the government as a capital city. Called the Pacific Coast City, it is the most ambitious real estate project ever undertaken by a Filipino.

Yet, Roxas is not at all overwhelmed by the vastness of the venture. Nor by the enormous amounts of funding needed to bring it into full fruition. Financing will be simple, in the form of long-term bonds (30 years) fetching an interest of just 6% per annum.

Who will bankroll the bonds? The central bank, Roxas suggests. The Bangko Sentral is not allowed to do that under its present charter, he is reminded. Since its rehabilitation, from the bankrupt Central bank of the Philippines to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the bank of last resort is no longer allowed to issue CB certificates of indebtedness or CBCIs. To solve the problem, Roxas proposes an amendment to the BSP charter.

He estimate P20 billion worth of bonds will raise the initial funding to jump-start the Pacific Coast city project. Development could take 20 years.

In January 2000, President Estrada signed a proclamation declaring 30,000 hectares in Barangay Umiray, Dingalan, Aurora province, and Barangay Umiray, General Nakar, Quezon province as a special economic zone and tourism estate pursuant to Republic Act 7916.

Then Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta had recommended on Jan 10, 2000, that the area be declared an ecotourism estate. "The proposed Pacific Coast City includes an industrial city, an educational city, and a resort city, the latter of which will contribute immensely to the tourism drive of the country, and finally open the pristine beauty of the Eastern Luzon Seaboard for the good of the country try as a whole", Araneta said.

She said the proposed project, including the resort city, "is estimated to generate P920 billion in taxes, 3.56 million in international arrivals, and P4.2 billion in tourist receipts, yearly." At the same time she added, "this will position the country to open up an alternate growth and tourism area in the Eastern Luzon Seaboard, which has been done before." The Estrada administration adopted the Pacific Coast City as flagship project just like President Fidel Ramos before him.

To the uninitiated, Dingalan seems like a distant place. Yet, the project is only 80 kms from central Manila, Roxas points out. Several access roads are being built. The access road from Montalban to the project site will facilitate travel in just 40 minutes, says Roxas.

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Biography of Atty. Romeo G. Roxas

Atty. Romeo G. Roxas is a successful lawyer and businessman. He graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Bachelor of Laws in 1961. He became a full- fledged lawyer at the young age of 21. He is a member of the New York Bar. Not content with a legal education, he pursued further studies in the field of business and obtained his Master in Business Management, major in Marketing and Finance at the Alexander Hamilton University in New York, U.S.A. Owing to his business acumen, he became the head of the Marketing Division of Ysmael Steel Manufacturing Co., the biggest marketing organization at that time, at the of 26. He is at present a director of the Philippine VeteransBank.

As President and Chairman of the Green Square Properties Corporation and the Green Circle Properties and Resources, Inc., he is deeply involved in property development in the Philippines. In joint ventures with other companies, he has taken the task of developing his companies' 1,000 hectare scenic property at the Taal Volcano Ridge in Tagaytay. A more exciting project, however, is his bold and pioneering efforts to develop a masterplanned industrial, educational and resort cities in his companies' 80,000 hectare property located in the pristine vastness of the Eastern Luzon Seaboard provinces of Aurora and Quezon overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Committed to National Development As a lawyer specializing in real estate and corporate laws and a businessman with banking and finance and marketing experience behind him, he is committed to devote the rest of his life, concretely contributing to proper national development in a perfect setting -- the eastern side of Luzon which has to this day remained largely undeveloped but with a vast promise and potential for growth and development.

The Pacific Coast City

The Pacific Coast City will link Manila and Dingalan Bay and open new frontiers for people, industries, universities, and tourism over the next 25 years. It will solve the congestion in Metro Manila.

For years, planners have thought of linking west Luzon to east Luzon. But no one has come forward to put the concept into a workable strategy and put his money where his mouth is. Until Green Circle Properties and Resources Inc. acquired control of some 80,000 hectares of raw land in Quezon and Aurora provinces.

Green Circle is the holding company of lawyer Romeo G. Roxas. He wants to connect South China Sea on the west to the Pacific Ocean on the east, linking the port of Manila with the proposed port in Dingalan.

Manila and Dingalan are just 105 kms apart in a straight line moving northeast. They can be connected by a road coming from Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija turning southward towards Aurora province, or by a road through Montalban, Rizal province turning north towards, again, Aurora. Such a road, about 85 kms, is under construction, says Roxas. When completed, the road will cut travel time to Aurora from three hours to less than an hour.

Harnessing the Potential of the Pacific Coast

The whole concept of a Pacific Coast city is anchored on one premise – the region is strategic to the Philippines and to the rest of Asia. Its development could trigger the movement of people, goods, services, and facilities like universities and government offices, from Manila towards the east.
The whole concept of a Pacific Coast city is anchored on one premise – the region is strategic to the Philippines and to the rest of Asia.

Its development could trigger the movement of people, goods, services, and facilities like universities and government offices, from Manila towards the east.

Abroad, like California, a Pacific ocean view fetches a premium price. In the Philippines, it does not. The problem is that the Pacific Coast has not been developed.

So Roxas has come up with a development plan. Master planning was done by Robert Lambhart, planners, architects and landscape architects, in tandem with famous Filipino architect and masterplanner Felino "Jun" Palafox.

Palafox used the concept of a Pacific Coast as theme for his thesis in urban design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

"We need a new place as big as Metro Manila to absorb its excess population," says Atty. Romeo Roxas, 65, chairman and president of Green Square Properties Corp., the property subsidiary of his Green Circle.

"There is a need to balance development between areas west of Luzon, which is Metro Manila, and areas in the east," adds Roxas. "Lands prices along the west end of Manila, for example, sell from P 20,000 per sqm. Compare this with P200 persqm along the coastline of Aurora and Quezon Provinces."

Roxas owns 30,000 hectares of waterfront property running from Dingalan, Aurora down to Infanta, Quezon. He plans to develop this property into a megacity, called Pacific Coast City, that would be an alternative site to Metro Manila for industries, homes, schools, and recreation.

The city will feature an international shipping port in Dingalan and prime beach resorts along the 80-km coastline of the property.

"The reason why there is very little government has never built any major infrastructure there," Roxas points out. "If you build the roads, people and business will follow."

This is why the project starts out with the construction of an 85- km major highway directly linking Montalban, Rizal; to Dingalan, Aurora. Montalban is at the northwestern tip of Metro Manila. Then the site will be opened to locators under lease agreements or joint ventures.

The whole project will likely take 25 years to complete. There will be five phases taking around five years each to finish. The first phase covers setting up access roads and constructing parts of the Dingalan Port and infrastructure for the industrial sites.

"There are no changes in the original masterplan we submitted to the government in 1999," says Mauro Roxas, project director and EVP of Green Square Properties. "We're already cutting in roads in preparation for the construction of the major access roads."

"We're also currently shortlisting the number contractors for the roads. My uncle (Romeo Roxas) wants the core contractors to be Filipino," says Mauro Roxas. "If we award the work to three contractors, it would take us only fromone to two years to complete the access roads."

"The new roads would cut travel time from Montalban, Rizal to Dingalan, Aurora from more than three hours to less than an hour," says the elder Roxas.

The whole road network would cost around P1 billion. Funding will come from a bond flotation in two tranches of 500 million each.

The first tranche will probably be issued within the year after the national elections. It would likely mature in five years, with two years grace period for principal payments.

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From P200 per sqm, land valuation within the Pacific Coast City would likely reach an average of P1,500 per sqm after development.

"Normally, you would expect gross revenues of around P1 billion for every 100 hectare of land you develop and sell. But with time on your side, you could expect to gain even if just hold on to the property," says Roxas, who has been buying and developing land as early as the 60s.

"Aside from joint ventures, I would also go for leasehold arrangements so foreigners could take part in the projects," he adds.

Roxas is really excited about developing the 80-km shoreline of the Pacific Coast City into prime resorts.

"Did you know that beachfront properties are the most expensive type of property?" Roxas eagerly asks. "It is because if you live along the beach, you have no neighbors, just the wide open sea in front of you. A seashore is a natural playground and there are lots of fresh air."

"Look at California, most of its cities have been developed into prime beachfront properties. The Philippines has a lot of these because we're made up of more than 7,000 islands. But sad to say, the government doesn't see the tremendous potential." he adds.

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Dingalan Port

Another main feature of the Pacific Coast City is the construction of the Dingalan Port. "Except for the Philippines, all other Asian and American countries along the Pacific Coast have a major port facing the Pacific Ocean," says Palafox.

"Magellan rediscovered the Philippines through the Pacific, Mac Arthur came back to the Philippines via the Pacific, smugglers ship their goods using the Pacific. I really can't see why the government never built a major port along the country's coastline facing the Pacific Ocean," complains Palafox.

"In case China closes down South China Sea for military reasons, the Philippines would be literally cut off from the rest of world in terms of sea transport," says Roxas.

"A major port in Dingalan would also put us ahead of Singapore because it will cut shipping time by five days" says Atty. Roxas. "This is because ships could directly load or unload their cargo in Dingalan. They don't ned to transfer their cargo to smaller feeder vessels, which is what they do whenever they call the port of Manila."

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Pacific Coast City

Rising on 28,000 hectares of land, this new development is aptly referred to as the Pacific Coast City, obviously because of its location along the Pacific Coast City. The development of the Pacific Coast City will usher in enormous economic benefits to the Philippines, especially to the Eastern Luzon Seaboard.

But before relishing the gains, the government and the private sector must join hands to turn this vision into reality. There must be a tight grip on how development takes place and when participants are expected to come in.

As a strategic growth center on Luzon's Eastern seaboard (Cagayan and Isabela in the Cagayan Valley, and Aurora and Quezon in Southern Tagalog). Pacific Coast City covers the municipalities of Dingalan, Aurora and General Nakar in Quezon Province. The site has only one owner, making development plans easier to pursue.

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Master Planned mixed-used Development

It is a new kind of master planned city for the Philippines- a tropical city whose form and identity is in response to the existing natural environment.

Master planned into a network of livable communities, Pacific Coast City shall be mixed use development focused on an integrated whole. Thus, it is a work center that is also a place to live in, a place to study, a place for leisure and rest, a place to shop, a place to commune with nature, a place to build up one's physical attributes, a place to worship, a place for ethnic minorities to join the mainstream, etc.

In effect, Pacific Coast City shall be multiple cities within one grand mega city. The project is an actual model of a sustainable community with a livelihood component. There are various growth nodes or "workplace centers." Each node represents a particular employment-generating activity suited to its spatial characteristics and economic geography. These are the Agro-Industrial City, Port City, Government City, Olympic City, Worker' City, and Ecumenical City.

All nodes are linked by an efficient transport system of roads and rail, as well as transit oriented developments at major rail stops. This shall save our country a lot of productive ma-hours that are lost to traffic.

There will also be a network of urban open spaces that will serve as buffers protecting prime resource lands from urban encroachment. Identifying this "urban growth boundary" for Pacific Coast will stop sprawl before it begins. More importantly, because the entire development is built on higher ground, no floods are expected.

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Agro-industrial City

As a model of agriculture, this agro-Industrial City at Pacific Coast City shall be a place where food production becomes an art. Farm work will be fully mechanized and the farmers fully trained.

There will also be a monitoring system to maximize harvests. There will be a special school to teach farmers how to scientifically increase farm yield. The farmer, therefore, earns more and will be able to provide his children quality education and a brighter future.

The Agro-Industrial City will also differ from other farms in the country as it will provide other means of earning extra income in between farming and harvesting. During times of extreme heat or cold, the wife and children of farmers can engage in handicrafts, sewing, or pottery. These skills will be taught in special schools within the Pacific Coast City.

For those interested in entrepreneurship, universities will offer workshops and courses on business.

Factories relocating to the Pacific Coast City will be given tax incentives and financial support by the government to make them globally competitive.

The Industrial City will consist of "places of work" integrated into and surrounded by mixed-use communities, such as residential areas, leisure and entertainment centers, and places to shop and dine, among others.

There shall be companies for heavy, medium and light industries. The corresponding infrastructure will be there to provide support. The transport of goods, for example, becomes highly efficient with its own international port, railway and airport.

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Workers City

The Workers City will be near industrial estates servicing modern, agro-based industries. Workers here will undergo skills training and value formation.

Workers can build their own houses and engage in come-generating activities suited to the natural amenities of their location. Residential communities will be near the work sites and transport stations. Thus,the Workers City will be a mix of " shophouses" neighborhood, community centers and workplaces.

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Port City

A major feature of the Pacific Coast City is the development of the Dingalan Bay Seaboard, or the Port City. This is a potential national flagship project that will transform the Philippines into a transshipment center rivaling those of Singapore, Taiwan and Hongkong.
The Port of Manila serves as the only international gateway to the Philippines. Since 1987, traffic growth in the Port of Manila has been uncomfortably high.

To address this concern, Phase I and Phase II of the Batangas Port Development Project was developed. But even so, the rapidly expanding Calabarzon (Cavite Laguna- Batangas- Rizal- Quezon) has already taken up much of the ports capacity.

At present, the Philippines does not have an international port facing the Pacific Ocean because there is little cargo traffic here. Also, islands facing the Pacific are sparsely populated due to the rugged terrain, especially in the islands of Luzon and Samar.

Because of its good location, the Dingalan port will spur the development of Nueva Ecija and Tarlac. Major roads, such as the Cabatuan- Palayan-Dingalan highway, will link Dingalan to most areas in the site.

Moreover, vessels from northeast Asia going to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea can pass the Philippines without calling at Manila.

Shipment of goods to and from the United States and Canada can likewise be facilitated if a strategic alliance can be developed with one or two North American ports.

The business opportunities here are simply staggering.

The Dingalan Port will become a Free Trade Zone promoting transshipment cargo handling and attracting massive investments into the region. There will be corresponding infrastructure for transport, communications and utilities.

Green Circle Properties and Resources, Inc. and Green Square Properties and Resources, Inc. have consolidated real estate in the provinces of Quezon and Aurora with total area of 80,000 hectares. Palafox Association, with Fil-Estate, and Parsons International, master planned the development of the Pacific Coast City and called it " Eastern Luzon Seaboard Strategic Scheme" (ELSSS).

Despite the eastern seaboard's small population and small GDP contribution, the development of the Dingalan Port is a sound plan considering its strategic road connection to Central Luzon will be developed. If the roads will be there, the Dingalan Port can take on at least 10,000 TEU annually to and from Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bulacan and Pampanga.

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Strategic Advantages

Dingalan Port can be developed with the following objectives:
• Service its hinterland. If the town of Dingalan and adjoining municipalities are developed they will need to ship produce to international and domestic destinations.
• Serve as transshipment port for Manila. This does not mean Dingalan Port will replace Manila, for nowhere in the world can a heavily-populated region dispense with a nearby port. However, a port in the eastern seaboard can cater to sea traffic from as far as Manila and South Luzon provided the roads are there.
• Service Central Luzon hinterland. Development of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan will offer opportunities the Dingalan Port can immediately harmess.
• Serve as international transshipment port. It has easy access to the sea lanes leading to Taiwan, the Koreans, Japan and North America.

Land transport infrastructure, such as roads, highways and railways, are still undeveloped. This has been identified as the primary obstacle to the development of the eastern seaboard. The ELSSS study however, shows that the high cost of infrastructure development for these areas can be offset by the appreciation of land values. This will come with proper master planning, consolidation of the land, and packaging the whole area for the bond market.

If a suitable road capable of handling 40-foot containers will be built between the North Luzon Tollway and Dingalan (via Nueva Ecija province), a small international port with 10 to 12 meters depth can already be built in Dingalan.

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University City

The University City will be home to both new schools and old universities relocating from Metro Manila. New universities will focus on the study of natural sciences and resources indigenous to area.

The University City will emphasize science and technology aimed at making the Philippines globally competitive. There will be close coordination between the human resources needs of the Industrial City and the programs that the schools will offer.

There will also be special courses on business, computer technology or factory management for the children of farmers and workers.

The University City aims to stop brain drain by ensuring that its graduates find employment in the Industrial City.

The University City will also have a special school to teach parenting. There is a science on parenthood. It involves refocusing the individual's mental, psychological and spiritual outlook in order to become well rounded persons.

The University City will also offer citizenship training.

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Olypic City

Since the Pacific Coast City is located on relatively flat land facing a major river, it is also a good site for an Olympic City.This will host large water sports events and will serve as venue for training. The Olympic City will be a mixed-use development centered on sports, leisure and active recreation.

The Olympic City can host the Olympic games as well as big Asian sports events. Housing will be provided for workers in the Olympic City, as well as accommodations for visiting athletes and other transients.

There will be opportunities here for companies producing sporting goods and other related products or services.

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Resort City

As a resort community, Pacific Coast City offers unparalleled Pacific Ocean views. It could be a haven for artists, scientists, inventors, and cultural workers. Golf enthusiasts can also play in the championship golf courses while tourists can relax in well appointed hotels and marinas.
The Resort City will rise on some 10,000 hectares. It can accommodate as much as 20 million tourists each year. The beach resorts will have complete amenities.

Ecotourism will be promoted to sustain development in the resorts. The forests and indigenous flora and fauna will be zealously protected.

Tourism, as top dollar-earner, has much room for improvement. France, for example, has 70 million tourist every year. The US has 120 million visitors. The Philippines has only 2.5 million tourists each year.

The Philippines is blessed by nature. Its natural resources are diverse and pristine in beauty. As such, the Resort City bears a strong potential to become a major tourist destination in the Philippines.

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Ecumenical City

There is a place for religious communities and an Ecumenical Center at the Pacific Coast City. Two sites 200 hectares each have been allotted for religious communities with a large following.
The members of these religious communities may own lots where they can build their houses and engage in some income-generating activity suited to the natural amenities of their area.

For smaller religious sects, ecumenical centers will be built, each occupying 100 hectares. There will also be a common area at the center of the site where member can come together to worship and hold similar spiritual services.

The development of the Pacific Coast City and the need for its immediate implementation brings into focus what has happened to most cities. Metro Manila, for one, have become overdeveloped leaving many problems.

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