Corporate News

By Keith Richard D. Mariano, Reporter

After casino, Okada said to be keen on Philippine airports

Posted on July 21, 2016

GAMING MOGUL Kazuo Okada is interested in bidding for international airport projects in the Philippines, as part of a strategy to advance his investments in the local tourism industry, a local partner said.

Universal Entertainment Corp. Chairman Kazuo Okada made a courtesy call on President Rodrigo R. Duterte at the Music Room of Malacañan Palace on Monday, July 18. -- PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS GROUP
“Mr. Okada expressed his desire to be able to bid for the international airports because he believes that the airport is your first contact with the foreign tourists,” Antonio O. Cojuangco, president of All Seasons Hotel and Resort Corp., told reporters during the brand launch of the Japanese billionaire’s integrated resort and casino within the Entertainment City in Parañaque on Tuesday.

Mr. Okada is the chairman of Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp., whose Philippine subsidiary Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment, Inc. owns and operates the Okada Manila.

“If your airports are well-designed and are efficient, people will talk about your country and keep coming back. For him, the more tourists come, the better,” added Mr. Cojuangco, who concurrently sits on the Tiger Resort board.

As the $4-billion integrated resort and casino nears completion -- the first phase will open in November -- Mr. Okada is looking to develop resorts, golf courses and other tourism-related projects in other parts of the Philippines, including Palawan and Davao, possibly within the next two years, Mr. Cojuangco said.

The Filipino businessman will continue partnering with Mr. Okada for the subsequent developments, saying: “That’s why I joined him because I’m interested in tourism-related projects. I don’t really gamble, so for me, real estate is really the part that I want to invest in.”

These future projects will complement the offerings of Okada Manila and create a market from the guests of the 44-hectare integrated resort and casino, which will emerge as the largest development within the Entertainment City.

“There would be opportunity to have connectivity so people when they come on business to Manila, they can also have connectivity to experience some of the natural wonders that are already quite spectacular,” Tiger President Steve Wolstenholme said in a separate interview on Tuesday.

In this light, Mr. Okada is keen on undertaking international airport projects in the Philippines, Mr. Cojuangco said.

Diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) is among the most vocal proponents of developing a new international gateway for the country. Under the previous administration, the company proposed a $10-billion airport that will replace the aging Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang earlier showed interest in reviving the project under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, which has expressed openness to unsolicited project proposals.

“I have not clarified yet with the government. If the government says they prefer receiving an unsolicited proposal, we will submit it,” Mr. Ang told reporters on July 14 when asked whether SMC will submit the proposal.

While the new government is receptive of unsolicited proposals, the listed conglomerate that used to manage Philippine Airlines, Inc. intends to bid for the project to avoid perception of being favored, among others, Mr. Ang said.

SMC has sounded off Metro Pacific Investments Corp. Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan for a partnership on the airport project.

In a July 12 interview, Mr. Pangilinan said the group is “always open” to such a partnership, citing as “a good start” the acquisition of the telecommunication assets and a stake in one of the power plants of SMC.

“So, we’re looking at other things that we can work with. It’s good, it’s good to be partnering with business groups like San Miguel,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

MPIC is among the three Philippine subsidiaries of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Company Ltd., the other two being Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Philex Mining Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc. -- a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. -- maintains interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.