Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
THE Roberto Ongpin-led Alphaland Corp. is applying for accreditation with the government-run Tourism Industry and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) for its new resort on Patnanungan Island, just 20 miles away from its successful Balesin Island Resort.
This was disclosed by Alpahaland COO Michael A. P. M. Asperin in an interview with the BusinessMirror. He also expressed optimism that occupancy rates at Balesin Island Club would improve this year with the deployment of its new airplanes, two 68-seater ATR 72-500s, as well as offering flights from Clark International Airport.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization and the Department of Tourism recently hailed Balesin Island Club for its successful sustainable tourism project. (See, “UNWTO cites Ongpin resort’s sustainable-tourism program,” in the BusinessMirror, June 22, 2017.)
Meanwhile, Asperin said the Patnanungan Island project is about 750 hectares, compared to Balesin that is about 500 hectares, and will include an international airport “with complete CIQ
[Customs, Immigration, Quarantine]” facilities, that will allow international carriers and bring in foreign tourists. “We’ve already applied for this with the Department of Transportation and Tieza accreditation,” he added.
About P5.9 billion are being poured into the development of said resort, of which P1.8 billion will go into the construction of the airport alone, which will have a 2.5-kilometer runway. “It will accommodate wide-body jets like Airbus 777s,” Asperin noted.
If approved by Tieza, the designation of the Patnanungan Island as a tourism enterprise zone will grant Alphaland fiscal incentives, such as income-tax holiday, duty-free import of capital goods and equipment, exemption from value-added tax and import tax exemptions on transport equipment, among others.
In a letter to Balesin Island Club and Alphaland City Club members in March 2017, Alphaland Chairman Ongpin said that, aside from the runway, the Patnanungan Island project will have “a 300-room hotel, an 18-hole golf course and about 500 privately owned beachfront and golf-course homes. We are now in the market for a Hongkong-Macau style jetfoil ferry, which can travel to and from Balesin in half an hour to 45 minutes.” Patnanungan is about 20 nautical miles away from Balesin.
Ongpin also said the company borrowed P5.5 billion from BDO Unibank, P1.5 billion of which will be used to finance the Patnanungan Island project, dubbed the Balesin Gateway, and its Baguio Mountain Lodges. Both projects will be nonexclusive accommodation projects, unlike Balesin Island Club.
For his part, Asperin said he believes the “exclusive membership” business model at Balesin Island still works, despite Alphaland going into nonexclusive tourism projects. “Our income has been positive for the past two years. Our share prices have now reached P2.2 million [Gold members], P4 million [Diamond], and P6 million [Corporate],” from only P1 million when the company began exclusive membership shares in 2011.
He intimated that about 60 percent of the share owners are “Filipino-Chinese, many of whom like to keep a low profile”.
He said he was optimistic that Balesin will reach its goal of flying in 10,000 passengers this year with the purchase of its new planes, as well as starting flights at the Clark International Airport.
“Last year we only had 6,000 passengers because of the congestion at the airport [Ninoy Aquino International Airport] ,” he said, but noted that flights from Clark will allow Balesin to bring in guests “from the North, such as Pampanga and Nueva Vizcaya. We’re very excited about this”. The flight from Clark to Balesin, which has night-landing facilities, will take about 45 minutes.
The flights from Clark were a result of a demand from members, according to Ongpin in the same March 2017 letter. “We have also noted a significant increase in members wanting to take the flight to and from Balesin from Clark rather than the Naia. Many of you who live in the northern part of Metro Manila find that it takes about an hour to get to Clark, as opposed to having to traverse the heavy traffic in Edsa for as much as two hours to get to our hangar in the Naia.” The flight from the Naia in Pasay to Balesin takes about 25 minutes.
With the arrival of the second ATR 72-500, “[and] taken together with the night-flight landing capability at Balesin, we are now able to handle as many as 500 members and guests on a daily basis, obviously a major game changer for Balesin,” the Alphaland chairman emphasized.
According to the company’s web site, the Baguio Mountain Lodges project “will be a master-planned development of 300 lodge-style log homes, situated on a 76-hectare property. The development is just 8 km north of Baguio City on Ambuklao Road, which is now fully paved and is only a 15-minute drive from Baguio City proper.”