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Investors from Italy discovering Northern Mindanao

BusinessWorld Online
January 27, 2011

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Familiarity breeds investments in Cagayan de Oro City.

“Practically nothing is known about Mindanao in Europe, except that it is dangerous to come here because of the bombings between [sic] Christians and Muslims,” said Francesco Consalvi, a lawyer from Italy representing Italian investors interested in South and Southeast Asia.

“But when we went around this region to Camiguin and Bukidnon, there are a lot of potential development opportunities,” Mr. Consalvi added.

“We are interested in tourism activities such as the zip line, monkey bridge, whitewater rafting and others, and the dive sites are not yet famous but among the best that I have seen.”

Christian Stefano Marri, a businessman from Rome, agrees that Cagayan de Oro is a good investment area for Italians.

“Aside from the potential growth of the region, Filipinos speak English very well,” he said.

“Additionally, you have the same religion with Italians, so staying with you is very easy.”

The two are themselves looking to personally invest in four units of the Primavera Residences, a condominium being developed in the Pueblo Township by ItalPinas, Inc.

“It is better to have your own place in an area you plan to go to regularly than stay at a hotel,” said Mr. Marri.

“We are also after the low rates of the properties now, which are sure to go up when the international airport nearby is completed,” he added.

“Unlike Thailand, which has already a developed tourism industry, this part of Mindanao is in the process of development.”

Romolo Valentino Nati, chief executive officer of ItalPinas, said that construction of the Laguindingan International Airport will spur the growth of the region.

“We have been monitoring news of possible airports [sic] opening in several areas in the Philippines,” Mr. Nati said.

“But we wait until actual construction begins because many of the reports are not realized,” he added.

“Once an airport is completed, you can really see the value of properties go up.”

Mr. Nati also said that investment prospects in the region are better than in Italy.

“Although the tax is 8%-10% in the Philippines and only 2%-3% in Europe, the return on investment is much better,” he said.

Primavera Residences is also within an economic zone, which offers tax holidays to investors.

“The real estate market is also not doing fine in Europe right now. The growth is here; the action is here,” Mr. Nati said.

It was noted that many of the current investors here are South Koreans, with only a few Italian expatriates settling down and starting small businesses.

“Italians are scared to go to new places where there are no Italians,” said Mr. Consalvi.

“When Italian investments come — which we will promote once we get home to Rome — Italian tourists also come.”

Mr. Nati explained that ItalPinas specifically chose the name Primavera for its project to entice Italian buyers.

Primavera Residences has already pre-sold all 18 commercial units and 30 of the 138 residential units. Half of the buyers are overseas Filipino workers. ItalPinas hopes to sell 10 more by the end of the month before full construction operations start.