Investing in Aklan


Posted on August 07, 2015

CATICLAN -- This barangay in the first-class municipality of Malay hosts the nearest aviation gateway to world-famous Boracay Island, which is part of Malay. Godofredo P. Ramos Airport is the seventh busiest in the Philippines and the third busiest in Panay Island next to the international airports in Kalibo and Iloilo.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) approved the extension of the Caticlan runway in 2008, but San Miguel Corp. (SMC) only got the green light two years ago to extend it from the current 950 meters to 2,100 meters so the Boracay Airport can accommodate international flights. The new airport terminal is managed by SMC subsidiary TransAire Development Holdings Corp.

Aklan province is booming, and according to NEDA, several private companies have pledged to invest P20 billion here for power and infrastructure projects in the next three years. These developments include solar, wind, and hydro power generation plants with a combined capacity of at least 70 megawatts (MW).

PetroWind Energy Inc. (PWEI), a unit of Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE)-listed PetroEnergy Resources Corp., is the biggest among these investors. I had a chance to visit the first phase of its wind power project at nearby Nabas, a coastal town overlooking Boracay. The renewable energy project is being undertaken by PWEI through a wind energy service contract issued by the Department of Energy (DoE ) with funding from the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Last March, the 36 MW Nabas-1 project consisting of 18 wind turbine generators, started feeding energy to the Visayas grid of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines. PWEI President Milagros V. Reyes hailed this as a “big milestone” for the province of Aklan. She said this was Aklan’s first export of power sourced from the single biggest renewable energy investment in the province.

After more than two months of successful testing and commissioning, the DoE certified on June 10 that Nabas-1 is on commercial operation.

The 14 MW Nabas-2 project is on hold, pending the passage of a law allowing its development inside the Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park straddling Nabas and Malay.

Over at Boracay, investments are also on the rise. Ayala-owned Manila Water Co., Inc. (MWCI) operates the Boracay Island Water Co., Inc. under a 25-year concession agreement with government-run Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority. Recently MWCI signed a memorandum of agreement with Aklan’s provincial government to expand the coverage of its water supply business from the present three barangays in Malay to the entire Aklan province.

Since my last visit to the top tourist destination in 2013, new world-class resorts have sprouted on both the so-called front and back beaches of Boracay. The latest to open is the resort-hotel of Azalea Residences, the leisure arm of publicly-listed 8990 Holdings, Inc.

Azalea Boracay is a five-storey structure with 285 apartment-sized suites and a roof deck featuring two swimming pools and a mini-bar showcasing a panoramic view of the island paradise. Centrally located at the Station 2 business district, the project will be completed by February 2016.

Subject to the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Azalea will offer lifetime vacation shares in the form of preferred shares. Members would be entitled to lifetime vacation rights to Azalea’s existing hotels in Boracay and Baguio, and its future resorts in Cebu, Davao, and Pampanga.

Once offered, the shares are transferable from one generation to another. Members shall pay affordable annual dues for the maintenance of the establishments. Azalea is veering away from the traditional timeshare concept of locking in the members to buy at least one week of stay. Its members will have the flexibility to secure shares from a minimum of one night to as many nights as desired.

“Vacation matters,” said Azalea Leisure Residences Corp. President Ditas P. Yutuk, “and it doesn’t take an arm and a leg to have a great vacation with your family and friends.” She pointed out Azalea’s concept of locking in the cost of a lifetime of future vacations at today’s prices, thereby giving good economic value for money.

Frequent visitors say the best time to visit Boracay is during the off-season from mid-June to mid-October when the island is less crowded and resorts lower their rates. Nowadays, environmental measures are being implemented to prevent overdevelopment and preserve the world’s best beach as a holiday haven.

J. ALBERT GAMBOA is chief financial officer of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and Senior Advisor of KSearch Asia Consulting, Inc.