COCKTALES | Ayala set to transform Sicogon island into another Boracay

Fishing boats line the shores of Barangay Buaya, Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo in this file photo from means BUSINESS

Ayala Land is all set to transform Sicogon into another Boracay, having cleared the regulatory hurdles and the tenancy issues that had blocked the island's redevelopment for most of the last decade.

According to regulatory disclosures, Ayala Land had already established two subsidiaries, Sicogon Town Hotel and the Sicogon Island Tourist Estate Corp., the latter being the joint-venture vehicle that would acquire control and management of the 1,160-hectare island from its current landlord, the Sarrosa family.

The Sicogon subsidiaries were established last year, ahead of the February 29, 2016 order from Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes reclassifying 335 hectares of farm land into commercial and tourism uses.

The DAR order was also conditioned on the successful resettlement of the tenants to Estancia town  -- with Anti-Poverty Chairman Joel Rocamora and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas persuading the peasants -- across the channel in the main Panay island.

Unlike Boracay and more like Balesin, Sicogon has an existing 1.3-kilometer airstrip that is being repaired to handle initially charter flights, like it once did in the late 1970s and early 1980s after the entire island was declared a tourism zone by then President Marcos.

By the late 1980s, the island had fallen off the tourism radar, hobbled by lack of facilities and locators, and eclipsed by Boracay, on the other side of main Panay island.

What Ayala Land apparently wants to do, based on the driblets of information coming from the developer, is that after it had developed the master-plan, it would either lease or sell lots to third-party locators who would help build the massive infrastructure needed to transform Sicogon into a year-round holiday destination.

Like Boracay, Sicogon also has a mountainous, forested area with a natural spring that is the source of the island's fresh-water supply.

As to the island's airport, Ayala Land had said it wanted the airstrip ready for test flights by the first quarter of 2017.

Closer to Metro Manila, Ayala Land has also formed another subsidiary, Integrated Eco-Resort, to "engage in land and real estate business development in Caliraya Lake" in Laguna, apparently with the impending acquisition of the 250-hectare property of the Benitez clan, the financially-troubled owners of the Philippine Women's University.

But that, as they say, is another story.

Lucio Tan expands hotel portfolio

And speaking of real estate and tourism, taipan Lucio Tan is venturing into the budget hotel category, with Hong Kong's Mini Hotel as inspiration.

Tan's Eton Properties is aggregating the sixth-to-twelfth floor of the 40-story residential Eton Tower at the corner of Dela Rosa and Rufino streets in Makati's Legaspi Village into the Mini Suites, with rooms mostly in the 20-22 square meter sizes.

Like the more established Go Hotels of taipan John Gokongwei, where a walk-up rate would cost about P3,000/night, nightly accommodation at the Eton Mini Suites will cost anywhere between P2,000 and P4,000, the latter price reserved for the bigger "family' rooms.

Target opening date is mid-June.

Tan's current local hotel portfolio includes the Century Park hotel in Malate and the Charter House, also in Legaspi Village.

Leaching out of the partnership

The regional Steven Leach Group interior design powerhouse has unresolved ownership issues with its Manila office, apparently left hanging with the death two years ago of its founding co-partner and Philippine office head, Benjamin Hughes II.

According to the grapevine, the Steven Leach Group wants the Makati office to stop using the Steven Leach trademark, since Hughes, who established and nurtured the brand since 1976, is now gone.

So far the local company now led by Joaquin Palencia has refused, prompting the Steven Leach Group to initiate litigation against its orphaned office. Both sides have so far managed to keep the trademark row away even from the trade press.

The only visible hint of the breakup is that the Steven Leach Group website has dropped Manila from its partnership list.

The group's local interior design projects include The Country Club, the Manila Golf Club Sandtrap, Cocoon Boutique Hotel in Quezon City, Waterfront Hotel in Cebu, and PBCom head office along Ayala Avenue.

Money talks

o Katrina "Katsu" Razon, who would rather be known as the young entrepreneur behind Pulse Radio Asia rather than the heiress to Enrique Razon's billions, is getting her own Manila Polo Club share at the age of 25.

The latest quote for a polo club share: P12.5 million, buying.

o The Johnson Go of Robinsons Department Store that was referred to in the Friday column is not related either by affinity or consanguinity to the Gokongweis, this clarification came from no less than Robinsons Retail president Robina Gokongwei-Pe.

Her cousin with a similar name had already retired as general manager of Ministop way back in 2011.