Giant real estate developer Megaworld Corp. is crafting plans to transform the 55-hectare old airport site in Mandurriao, Iloilo City into a tourists’ haven. 

“Megaworld envisions the Iloilo Business Park a live-work-play-learn community hosting BPO offices, residential units, hotels, convention center, commercial and retail outlets, skills training center, and recreational facilities,” noted Kingson Sian, executive director and senior vice-president of Megaworld.

A theme park will become a hub for tourists, he stressed. 

“A lot of people just bypass Iloilo that they concentrate to Boracay – so we want them to come to Iloilo City and enjoy the culture, churches and history – then go to Boracay,” Sian enthused. 

Iloilo is considered the gateway to Boracay, Panay and Guimaras islands which have been positioned as hotspots in the Central Philippines of the country’s tourism program. 

Iloilo hosts the new state-of-the-art airport in Sta. Barbara-Cabatuan towns, some 19 kilometers north of the city. 

Iloilo City is home to the famous Dinagyang Festival cited as best tourism event in the country by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines (Atop). 

Megaworld has set foot on Iloilo City with big economic and tourism prospects amid a burgeoning urban center. 

“This is a rare opportunity for us to transform the site into a vibrant economic catalyst of Iloilo. Megaworld built its grand and reputation throughout Manila and now we’re bringing that to Iloilo,” said Sian. 

“We are bringing development we hope all Ilonggos can be truly proud of,” he added. 

Sian said Megaworld is largest landlord of BPO companies in the Philippines and the fastest growing real estate company in the country. 

Megaworld’s six major projects in Manila have a combined area of 100 hectares. The 55-hectare lot here is already half of the firm’s developments. 

Sian explained they have identified five growth drivers including BPO, middle-income housing, power of OFWs, decreasing home mortgage rate and government infrastructure spending. 

“The property market has been a hit while the demand for middle-class housing is very sharp as the economy continues to grow – there’s a lot of emerging middle class that want to grow. We should also consider the power of OFWs,” he pointed out. 

Iloilo is also considered an “OFW country” with the increasing demand for mushrooming residential facilities. 

“We want to highlight that when we buy a major piece of property we don’t like to sit and we develop the area immediately,” Sian said. 

“Filipinos (or Ilonggos in particular) will be getting well-paid jobs, good trainings and skills and will be working here and not somewhere else in the world. We want to do the same concept in Iloilo as what we have in Manila to give the Ilonggos a choice whether to stay or go abroad,” he added. 

A pioneer in the development of cyber-parks, Megaworld foresees that BPO companies maybe interested to set up offices in the Visayas region. 

The BPO sector includes call centers, medical and legal transcriptions, software development, architecture and animation using state-of-the-art computer technology. 

Megaworld site is an accredited special economic zone by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) to transform the old airport property into a new business district. 

A Peza-accredited business hub which offers tax incentives becomes a magnet for major BPO companies interested to expand in the metropolis. 

He added their developments in Manila host international Chinese and Korean schools. 

Iloilo has been home to Chinese community who are doing businesses in downtown area as well as Koreans flocking the city to study or do business here. 

(This modified story first appeared in The Guardian Iloilo October 2007)