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August 2, 2018

August 2, 2018

To Members and Friends:
 
After almost three weeks of suffering through a sweltering European summer, I returned to Manila on Monday last week, and was greeted with rainy weather. After two days in Manila, I flew to Balesin and I have been here since—that is a week now.

Unlike Manila, beautiful Balesin has had balmy, sunny weather, not a drop of rain. Since the early 70’s when I first built a nipa hut on Balesin, I have had the same Balesin experience for this time of year—great weather, while Manila soaks. And of course, while one can never guarantee the weather, I just want to remind you that there are two long weekends coming up in August (August 21, Tuesday and August 27, Monday). Balesin beckons!

Balesin Private Villas
 
In the past few days, I have been focusing on my newest Balesin “baby”—the Regency Private Villas. As you may remember, from late last year to now, we have built four private villas, an 8-bedroom, a 6-bedroom, a 4-bedroom, and my own “Chairman’s Villa.” I am very happy with my villa, where I am writing this update to members and where I feel quite at home, despite a nasty cold which I picked up in Europe.

I have actually purchased my villa from Alphaland, so that in the years to come, it will always remain with my family. I have had two or three social events at my villa, and our guests have always enjoyed it.

The Balesin Private Villas are unique in that they can be acquired (titled and all) by individuals, large family groups, or large corporations, who would like to invite friends, clients and/or customers to the island without them having to be members. For example, an insurance company with thousands of insurance agents, can acquire a private villa and this can be made available to their agents as an incentive benefit.

An 8-bedroom villa would have almost 3,000 villa nights a year, each night available for the use of their guests. Private villa guests are entitled to use all of the club facilities and amenities. When one considers that a private villa night is worth Php30,000, then a private villa owner, corporate or individual, will have Php90 million worth of villa nights available per year—in perpetuity—not a bad deal!

We are currently preparing a pamphlet on the Balesin Private Villas, which explains in detail the advantages of ownership.

Regency Private Villas
 
Back to the Regency Private Villas. Last month, we broke ground on four additional private villas which we are building simultaneously, a 12-bedroom, a 10-bedroom, an 8-bedroom, and a 6-bedroom villa.

We have initially christened this project, “The Regency Private Villas.” Situated where the driving range used to be, on one of the best beaches on the island, they are located next to each other, but with enough space for privacy. The workers’ facilities have now been completed and construction is going on full blast. We expect to complete them well in time for the holidays, so they can be available for members to book.

Just to recap the Regency Private Villas:

 

The "Forgotten" Balesin
 
These past few days, I have had an opportunity to inspect and revisit the whole island in much more detail. It struck me that several of our facilities have been almost forgotten by our members. They are hardly ever used, but they are beautiful! I include in this category the Mykonos Cove Deck and its panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean where you can sip a cocktail at dusk, feed the fish, or take a dip at any of the 5 jacuzzi pools in privacy.

Then there is La Terrazza on the third floor of Toscana Village. Again, it is a great and romantic spot done in very authentic Tuscan style. It truly reminds me of my own villa in Italy, after which it is patterned. A couple of days ago, I had a glass of my favorite Tuscan wine and some of the new prosciutto, and it was great. Incidentally, I have a new prosciutto supplier in my local Italian village of Anghiari. He produces the most delicious prosciuttos in the world, I swear. Although they are double the cost of my prior source, they are always succulent and delicious. Well worth it.

The Music Lounge at Costa del Sol is another “forgotten” feature of Balesin. With its nightlife club atmosphere, lights and effects, and great dance music, it is wonderful as an after-dinner venue and can remain open for as long as you want to stay.

The Picnic Grove, which used to be a great favorite of families on weekends, has also been “forgotten.” I would like to let you know that out of the 4 ponds at the Picnic Grove, 2 have now been fully stocked with sea bass, which are great devourers of tilapia fish (which we feed them), and therefore make for great eating. Our Chef “Tisoy” makes them either grilled or steamed. The other 2 ponds are, of course, where we hand feed our now famous Balesin crabs.

Green From Day One
 
Recently, I suppose as a result of the Boracay episode, quite a few resorts have been describing themselves as “going green.” I would like to let you know that Balesin has been “green” from day one.

Most importantly, Balesin Island is in the Pacific Ocean and thus away from the inter-island shipping lanes. Unlike beaches in the West Philippine Sea where a lot of trash is washed ashore, Balesin is blessed by the pristine waters around it. We can thus lay claim to having the only pure thalassotherapy pools in Asia from the cleanest sea water in the world.

Incidentally, one of my scuba diving friends recently told me that the coral around Balesin has been rejuvenated and soon, Balesin will be, in addition to its other attractions, a good dive spot. We of course stopped all of the dynamite and cyanide fishing when we acquired the island eight years ago now, and have since had several marine experts working at resuscitating and reseeding the coral beds, which looks like it has been successful.

We continue with our coconut replanting program. When we acquired Balesin it had 40,000 coconut trees, but many of them were quite old and tired. We have since planted 20,000 trees and are in the process of planting 30,000 more. Soon, we will have more coconut trees per square kilometer than anywhere else in the Philippines.

I guess you have seen the awful pictures of various beach resorts around the country showing sewage pipes jutting out into the sea. From day one, Balesin has had zero sewage discharge. We recently completed a total rehabilitation of our sewage treatment plant (STP) system. We have invested Php30 million in a state-of-the-art central STP. They tell me that its treated water is actually “drinkable.” But I have yet to try it!

Of course, the most environmentally friendly part of Balesin is its freshwater collection system. As you may know, the entire runway, which is totally concreted, has water catchment canals running all along the perimeter that channel the rainwater runoff to storage lagoons, and this is our main water collection facility. Balesin has no fresh ground water and as we grow, we need to keep increasing our water collection system. Now, every roof of every structure that we build has its own rainwater collection system. We now have a total storage capacity of 130,000 cubic meters in 5 storage ponds, and even now, at the height of Balesin’s summer, we still have 68,000 cubic meters of water. With an average consumption of 400 cubic meters a day, this is good for half a year without a single drop of rain.

I should say a word about solar power. Over the years, we have had some 20 proposals from solar power companies, and we have studiously evaluated each of them. Regrettably, all of them simply wanted to sell us the system without any production guarantee. I told all of them that we would buy all of the kilowatts that they can produce but they have to invest in the solar panels and storage batteries. Unfortunately, not one has risen to the challenge. But I am a great believer in renewable energy, and we shall not stop trying until we have, solar or otherwise, another form of renewable energy.

Balesin International Gateway
 
Turning now to Patnanungan Island, our Balesin International Gateway project. Last month, we finished the acquisition of the final 25 hectares on the island, which completes our target of a total of 732 hectares. This is a very large land bank, about 1-1/2 times the size of Balesin Island, and it took us almost 4 years to complete the land acquisition.

We have now asked our old friends from EcoPlan of Florida who did the Master Plan of Balesin, to help us with the Master Plan for Patnanungan Island. This is a monumental project which, while it will be done in phases, will take many years to develop. In addition to an international airport which will take direct flights from neighboring countries and thus bypass the congestion of NAIA, Balesin Gateway will have several hotels, an 18-hole championship golf course and several hundred home sites.

It will not be a membership club like Balesin, but Balesin members will have access to it, served by a HK-Macau-type jet-foil ferry which we will be acquiring next year. We have quite a number of interested partners for this project and, after completing all of the regulatory requirements, we intend to break ground before the end of this year.

Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges
 
Our Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges, despite the wickedly wet Baguio weather at this time of the year, continues to progress. We have now sold all of the 24 units that we have built. In all, we plan to build, over a 5-year period, some 300 lodges on this 82-hectare property.

Most recently, we have decided to build 2- and 3-bedroom quadruplex units, which will sell for half the price of the current single-family 4-, 5-, and 6-bedroom units. There has been a lot of interest in smaller lodges that are less than the Php50 million average price of the existing units. We have now designed 10 of these quadruplex units (a total of 40 of the smaller units), and will start building them after the rain stops in November.

Top of the Alpha
 
After a lapse of some months because of the delay in the delivery of the elevators, we are now doing the finishing touches to the Top of the Alpha, and it should be ready to be inaugurated next month. As you know, the great nightlife impresario Louie Ysmael has agreed to be the “Godfather” of this project and in fact, it is called “Top of the Alpha by Louie Y.” With a 360-degree view of Makati and fabulous interiors, it will be the only penthouse club setting in Makati and will be “THE club.” All Balesin and City Club members will automatically be Top of the Alpha members. The rest will have to pass Louie Y’s scrutiny!

I cannot close this update without a mention of our distinguished new directors of Alphaland, who were elected on June 20, 2018. They include the following:

  1. Lorenzo V. Tan – Actually, Lorenzo has been Advisor to the Board of Alphaland for over a year now and I am happy that he finally decided to join the Board as Vice Chairman. Lorenzo has been very helpful to me on many aspects of the operations of Alphaland.

  2. Eric O. Recto – I am also delighted that Eric has agreed to rejoin me at Alphaland. As you know, Eric was Vice Chairman from the very inception of Alphaland, but had to step down during the negotiations for my amicable settlement with Ashmore, as he was the intermediary for the negotiations. With the success of Alphaland today which would not have been possible without Eric’s help, I am very happy to have him back on the Board with me, also as Vice Chairman.

  3. Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara – Sonny’s father, Ed, who recently passed away, has been on all of my Boards from the beginning of my career, and he was one of my closest friends. I am happy that Sonny has agreed to join our Board.

  4. Atty. Florentino M. Herrera III – Binky was one of the founders of the Herrera Teehankee & Cabrera Law Offices and has had a successful law practice for many years now. He is also the son-in-law of my mentor, the late Wash SyCip.

  5. Atty. Francisco Ed. Lim – Francis, who was at one time President of the Philippine Stock Exchange, has been my counsel for many issues in the years past. In addition to being one of the senior partners at the ACCRA Law Firm, he is active in many corporate endeavors.

  6. Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. – Gibo was Secretary of National Defense in a previous administration, and has since been serving as independent director for several public companies. He is one of the most brilliant legal luminaries in the country, having topped the bar, and having been valedictorian of his law class at the University of the Philippines.

  7. Dennis A. Uy – Dennis is one of the rising stars of Philipine business. He is Chairman of Udenna Corporation, which is the holding company for Phoenix Petroleum, and many others in other fields of business.

  8. Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin – Fr. Jett is President of Ateneo University, my alma mater. When I asked him to join the Board, his only comment was “I don’t know anything about property development,” and I said “Don’t worry, you’re a fast learner.”

  9. Gregorio T. Yu – Greg and I have worked together in several capacities over the last 30 years. He was formerly President of Belle Corporation, and we worked together in developing Tagaytay Highlands. Among other endeavors, he is currently Chairman of CATS Automobile Corporation, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Sterling Bank.

I think you will agree that the above new additions to Alphaland’s Board of Directors are a sterling group of outstanding individuals, and will be my guide in charting the future course of the company.

Finally, for those of you who might not remember, Alphaland will be entitled to relist on the Philippine Stock Exchange by October next year, as per the agreement with the PSE. The success of Alphaland, even as a private company, speaks for itself, and I believe that this relisting will be welcomed by the market.

ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
Chairman
 

 

The Regency Private Villas - renderings

 

The Regency Private Villas - renderings

 

The Regency Private Villas - renderings

 

2-bedroom quadruplex unit
Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges

 

Main floor plan (2-bedroom quadruplex unit) (168.60 sq.m per unit)
Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges

 

Second floor plan (2-bedroom quadruplex unit) (168.60 sq.m per unit)
Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges

 

3-bedroom quadruplex unit
Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges

 

Main floor plan (3-bedroom quadruplex unit) (198.00 sq.m per unit)
Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges

 

Second floor plan (3-bedroom quadruplex unit) (198.00 sq.m per unit)
Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges