The visual representation of the 30,000-person capacity Pawikan International Convention Center that the city government of Puerto Princesa is hoping investors will construct at the environmental estate in Barangay Sta. Lucia. (Screenshot from the presentation of Mayor Lucilo Bayron on October 27 at Conrad Manila)

One of the seven reasons why big businesses and venture capitalists should invest in Puerto Princesa is the accessibility of local tax breaks that may enable them to lower the initial launch costs of their projects.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron stated this at a business briefing held on Thursday at the Conrad Manila, where he pitched and outlined the city’s ambitious plans to attract investors for the Environmental Estate Harbor View, the Cuyito (Quito) Bay View, and other venture opportunities.

He posited that it is time to look much more closely at what Puerto Princesa has to offer as a location for investments because it is one of the safest cities in the country and doesn’t have any overcrowding problems; its leadership is friendly and willing to offer extra incentives when needed; it has better air and sea connections locally, regionally, and nationally; it is strategically located to Asian cities and countries; it has good fishing grounds; and it has enough vacant land that can be developed.

“[In line with] the vision of making Puerto Princesa the convention capital of the country, we have two project sites—the Environmental Estate Harbor View and the Cuyito (Quito) Bay View projects. The environmental estate is a 1,072-hectare project site. Now I know it’s as large as the entire Boracay Island,” he told businessmen and other stakeholders on October 27.

He stated during the open forum that the city government is willing to take bank loans to develop the projects that the city is opening for investment because Puerto Princesa has a good credit standing.

Environmental Estate Harbor View
“This area is open for investment in the construction and establishment of a large convention center, walkable hotels, nighttime economy, and tourism destinations,” he added.

Visual representation of the clam shell-shaped 5,000-person capacity convention center, which the city is hoping to be constructed by investors near the cruise port. (Screenshot from the presentation of Mayor Lucilo Bayron on October 27 at Conrad Manila)

He said that they may use joint ventures, public-private partnerships (PPPs), or long-term leases to make the investments the local administration is seeking.

The plan entails the construction and operation of a 30,000-person capacity international convention center in the shape of a sea turtle (pawikan), which will serve “as a tourist attraction in its own right.” It will be capable of holding not only conventions, but meetings, exhibits, concerts, and sporting events, he said.

The city government, according to him, will build all horizontal facilities, such as road networks, drainage systems, wastewater treatment plants, underground cabling for power and communications systems, a water supply system, and the building of a 100-hectare manmade lake.

“The construction of walkable hotels may also be started. These walkable hotels must have a capacity of 30,000 to 35,000 rooms consisting of 1 star to 6 star hotels, and this will be funded by the investors,” he said.

Mayor Bayron during his presentation of investment opportunities in Puerto Princesa at a business briefing in Manila.

Malls, shopping centers, restaurants, bars, pubs, cinemas, wellness centers, even casinos, are needed in the planned community at the environmental estate, including facilities for tourism destinations, such as an ocean park, Safari park that will be called Zoowahig, Sta. Lucia hot spring and spa (hyperalkaline hot spring), international shooting range, wake boarding facilities for the manmade lake, mangrove walk, nature park, golf courses and tennis courts, firefly watching facilities, marina, and others.

To keep guests safe, the city government will put in place a police station, fire station, as well as smart lighting and traffic systems.

He said that any investor can start building a cable car system to the town center and a sea ferry service across the bay that will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can also put money into electric taxis, monorails, and renewable energy as a source of power.

Cuyito (Quito) Bay View
Bayron introduced this project to investors as an attractive 9.9-hectare site on the edge of downtown Puerto Princesa, close to a 500-meter cruise quay that can hold ships with 8,000 to 10,000 people.

“This site is a 15-minute to 20-minute drive from the Puerto Princesa International Airport. A cruise port terminal, which has been funded by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), will soon rise on this site,” he said.

“Cuyito project is a smaller version of the environmental estate, where another iconic 5,000-capacity convention center that looks like a shell is envisioned to be built and operated either by the city government or jointly with the private sector,” he added.

To pave the way for investments, the city government will relocate 904 coastal-dweller families, reclaim areas, construction of paved road network (with side walk, drainage, street lighting, and wastewater treatment plant), construction of the 5,000-capacity convention center, and the construction of the Biodiversity Museum that will showcase Puerto Princesa’ marine ecosystem.

The invitation for the private sector of the city is to fund the construction of 8,000 walkable hotel rooms for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE) travelers and tourists, establishment of nighttime economy like what is needed in the Environmental Estate Harbor View project, operation of small boats for bay and river cruises, ferry boats, and the cable car system.

Other investment opportunities
Another investment opportunity is the reclaimed seafront strip fronting Puerto Princesa Bay, which Bayron says will soon have a DPWH-funded viaduct connecting the poblacion area across to strategic points.

Investment opportunities for this area, he said, are midrise residences, commercial mixed use buildings, and nighttime economy with al fresco restaurants.

Bayron said they are also inviting investors to the Puerto Princesa Integrated Fish Port on the east coast of the city in Buenavista.

The planned Puerto Princesa Integrated Fish Port.(Screenshot from the presentation of Mayor Lucilo Bayron on October 27 at Conrad Manila)

“The fishing grounds around the province of Palawan are the richest fishing grounds in the country,” he said.

He cited that the 2013 Philippine Fisheries and Development Authority Report confirmed that the province’s fishing grounds contributed 38% of fish supplies landed in Navotas, 30% in Lucena, 32% in Iloilo, and 25% in General Santos, accounting for 170 metric tons of fish caught in Palawan.

“An integrated fish port, a one-stop-shop, can compete with the established fish ports because of its strategic location to the fishing grounds,” he said.

The city government will handle site development, including reclamation, rockworks, commercial wharf and fish landing, breakwater, causeway construction, required horizontal developments, and fuel stations, with an estimated P1.6 billion budget that will be financed by taking on a bank loan.

“We are asking the private sector to fund, construct, establish, and operate inside the fish port under PPP, joint venture, or long-term lease, a cold storage, processing plant, ice plant, commercial shops for fishing needs and other supplies, banks, money transfers, wholesale and retail fish markets, and to be financed by the water district, a fresh water station,” he said.

He also flexed the Tagkawayan Beach, which faces the West Philippine Sea, and Tagbarungis Beach, which faces Sulu, as potential investment locations for beach and nature park development. Both areas can be sites for medium-sized hotels that can also offer sports or leisure activities, cabanas, glamping facilities, and others.

“We still have a lot to offer. If you are inclined to invest in beach and nature park development, then these two underdeveloped beaches, the 52-hectare Tagbarungis Beach in the east coast and the Tagkawayan Beach in the west coast owned by the city government of Puerto Princesa may interest you,” he added.

The six-hectare property at the back of the City Coliseum, the Balayong People’s Park, the Irawan Integrated Agriculture Center, and the Acacia Tree Park were also offered for various investment opportunities, such as construction of multi-level steel parking buildings, medium-rise condos, canopy walks, halal slaughterhouse, and others.

“Come, invest, and let’s make history together in Puerto Princesa,” he said at the end of his presentation.

Questions, reactions
Buddy Recio, author from Travel Update Philippines, asked Bayron if Puerto Princesa would welcome Chinese visitors and investors, particularly to the beaches, to which he replied, “all visitors are welcome in the city.”

“Especially if they bring a lot of money, they are always welcome. Investors are welcome,” Bayron answered.

Dr. Ian Kenneth Bermejo from Adventist Hospital Palawan (AHP), who supported the city’s bid, said being in Puerto Princesa is vital as it has all the ingredients that could make it a “Blue Zone,” where people live the longest.

“We don’t have a Blue Zone in the Philippines. However, the ingredients for transforming Puerto Princesa into a Blue Zone are there,” Bermejo stated, explaining that investors could profit by venturing in retiree homes and other amenities because people in countries like Japan want to stay in areas where they can live longer.

A property development investor, on the other hand, raised some concerns that the city government should address in order to attract people to invest in Puerto Princesa.

According to Louie Endonto, something must be done to streamline business processes, permits, and licenses, which are concerns of all investors and other business stakeholders.

“The process in which Puerto Princesa has established, and as of now, we do not have any idea yet as far as the presentation is concerned, how many days, for example, the development permits can be issued by the city government from the time we submit the complete requirements?” he asked.

Bayron said this should be no problem because the city government has an efficient and effective Business-One-Stop-Shop (BOSS) that issues all regulatory approvals within two days.

Engr. Rex Bundac of the City Building Office (CBO) also said that if all applications and requirements are met, building permits and licenses can be given out in 21 days.

“Sa ngayon po kapag kumpleto ang documents, kapag natanggap namin sa City Building Office, ay 21 days po ang approval,” Bundac said.

Edonto said they have completed all the documents they were required to submit in June 2022, but unfortunately they have not yet obtained the permits they need.

“The solution to that is nakita namin yong duplication ng mga processes,” he said, appealing to Bayron to review the process as it will cause them money every day that they wait to get approved. (with reports from Aira Genesa Magdayao)