By Zsarlene B. Chua, Reporter

BDO Unibank, Inc. and Singapore’s Keppel Land Ltd., on Tuesday formally opened the office and retail mixed-use development The Podium in Ortigas business district, Mandaluyong City.

The Podium spans 140,000 square meters (sq.m.) in leasable area — 50,000 sq.m. of retail space and about 90,000 sq.m. of office space. The Podium mall first opened in 2002, while the second phase of the mall began operations in 2017. The 48-storey Podium West Tower was completed in May this year.

The mall serves as a podium for both the East Tower and the BDO Corporate Center Ortigas that opened in 2015.

Keppel Land, the property arm of Keppel Corp., holds a 40% stake in the development, while BDO and an associate company own the remaining stake. BDO is the banking unit of the SM Group.

The Podium’s grand opening was attended by Singaporean President Halimah Yacob who is currently on a five-day state visit.

“I would say that this is probably the biggest [investment in the Philippines] that we have but hopefully we can do more,” Tan Swee Yiow, chief executive officer of Keppel Land, told reporters on the sidelines of The Podium’s opening on Tuesday.

When asked why it took 17 years for the development to be completed, Mr. Tan said it was due to market conditions.

“We were talking about having this project 20 years ago, we were probably ahead of the market and we may not be able to find a good demand. So I think we timed the entry in such a way that the economy developed [to a] stage that is able to take such demands,” Mr. Tan explained.

The Podium was developed to make it look like a mixed-use development in Singapore because the developers wanted to “create a piece of Singapore here in the Philippines,” Teresita Sy-Coson, chairperson of BDO, said in her opening speech.

“This development is significant because it is here where we hope to connect the Singapore and Philippine companies, whether it’s through retail collaborations in the mall or looking for local-owned or representative office spaces… We would like to make things easier for Singaporean companies,” she said, before adding that more Singaporean companies are expressing interest in entering the country.

The Podium has a 2,000-sq.m. garden wall that has over 6,500 plants — described as the biggest vertical green wall in the country. It was awarded the LEED Gold Mark (Core & Shell) pre-certification by the US Green Building Council and received the Green Mark Gold Award by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.

Aside from the Podium, Mr. Tan expressed interest in doing more mixed-use developments in the country.

“We are very strong in mixed-use developments and I find [that because] of the traffic conditions here, this is probably the one thing we can try to scale more. Of course we can also do a bit of residential and so on, but I think mixed-use is something we can experiment with a bit more,” he said.

He added that they plan on focusing on Metro Manila first before branching out elsewhere in the Philippines.

“[There’s no specific location] yet because to get a large-scale [plot of land] like this is not easy…we will continue to look for such opportunities,” he said.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Philippines, Enterprise Singapore (a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry supporting small and medium enterprises) is staging Singaporium, a lifestyle and food pop-up fair at the mall’s atrium until Sept. 15.