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Belle wants perks for Tagaytay Highlands

Friday, June 26, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES [ BusinessWorld Online ]

PROPERTY DEVELOPER Belle Corp. will reapply to have flagship project Tagaytay Highlands declared a special economic zone, more than a decade after its first attempt.

"We are applying to the PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) to make Tagaytay Highlands a tourism destination," Belle Chairman Willy N. Ocier said at the sidelines of the company’s stockholders’ meeting.

Mr. Ocier said there are no concrete plans yet for new tourist facilities but the idea is to build retirement villages, adding that Tagaytay Highlands is big enough to have "exclusive" and "non-exclusive zones."

He said Belle might convert 200 hectares of the total 1,200 hectares into a PEZA-accredited zone and is hoping to get the approval within the year.

"Everything is preliminary," Mr. Ocier told reporters.

The company first applied for ecozone status in 1997 but "the crisis overtook the planned projects" among which include a racetrack, he said.

PEZA-registered economic zones enjoy a lot of benefits, which include exemption from the corporate income tax for a limited period and a 5% special tax on gross income and exemption from all national and local taxes thereafter.

Belle Corp. is a high-end property developer whose developments are located mostly in Tagaytay and Batangas province. The company’s major stockholders include the Sy family of the SM group.

"Belle Corp. is profitable. In March, we launched our first project, the Japanese-inspired Katsura and in just a span of a month, it was already 50% sold. This is better than expected," Belle Corp. Executive Vice-President Manuel A. Gana said.

Mr. Gana said the group plans to launch another project, to be known as Fairfield, in the second half of the year.

The seven-hectare project will have 100 to 120 lots with an average size of 400 square meters (sq.m.), priced at P7,000 per sq.m.

The "contemporary suburban American style, home-inspired" project is expected to break ground this year and will be turned over in 2011.

"We wanted to do more projects this year and we are supposed to launch four projects but we want to be cautious and be prudent in launching projects," Mr. Gana said.

The company has doubled its budget this year and plans to spend around P700 million to P800 million, hiking spending further to P800 million to P900 million next year.

Mr. Gana said most of customers are locals or foreign-based professionals preparing to retire here, adding that the company is experiencing only a 1% cancellation rate.

"Belle is going to be okay and Katsura causes us to be optimistic. The demand is still there and we expect the second half to be better than last year, and [this should] continue until the year ends," he said.

Mr. Gana however said the group has no plans to build condominiums this year or next to "prudent."

"In the worst-case scenario, we will be able to finish all our projects in time [if we pursue with the horizontal developments]," he said. — Kristine Jane R. Liu


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