Offshore gaming firms on a buying spree of PH real estate

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Philippine offshore gaming operators, or POGOs, are snapping up residential and office spaces, contributing heavily to the current uptrend being experienced by the local real estate industry, said insiders.

Photo shows the resource persons during the roundtable discussion organized by online firm Lamudi

According to Thomas Mirasol, chief operating officer and senior vice president of Ortigas & Company, the residential real estate market in the Philippines is booming and this is partly brought about by POGOs.

“In recent years, we have this influx in the POGO market where people in the hundreds of thousands are coming over and they are taking up residence in Metro Manila and even in the provinces,” said Mirasol during a roundtable discussion organized by online property marketplace Lamudi.

Held at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel on September 20, the RTD tackled Lamudi’s 2018 outlook for the Philippine property scene.

Mirasol was one of the panelists during the discussion which also included Architect and Arco Group president Cathy Saldana, KMC Savills, Inc. managing director Michael McCullough, and Greg Ignacio of PrimeHomes Real Estate Development.

According to Mirasol, the entry of POGOs signals one of the most significant changes in the Philippine property scene.

“The growth in the POGO industry has been quite strong. This has churned a lot of take up for residential units,” he said an added that vacancy rates among Metro Manila properties are generally sliding owing to this new market segment.

In terms of office space uptake, McCullough claimed that in 2017, POGOs accounted for 400,000 square meters of office space. In 2018, the gaming operators grabbed another 400,000 square meters of office area for their business. Potentially, a total of 140,000 gaming industry workers now populate these facilities which are mostly situated in Makati and Pasay cities.

“There are risks but the Philippines has fully learned to embrace this type of business model,” said McCullough. “So that has attracted a lot of commerce not just from China, but also from Taiwan, South Korea.”

For Mirasol, the phenomenon of the PGOs is similar to the influx of nationals from another Asian country several years ago. Now, these visitors have successfully integrated themselves into Philippine society and culture.

“Maybe we’ll see the same thing with many of the POGOs,” shared Mirasol. “They come here to work. Before you know it, they meet someone and now they’re married to a Filipino.”

Aside from gaming operators, investments from overseas are also driving demand, said Mirasol, due to cheap valuations for prime locations and good rental incomes on top of capital appreciation.

Saldana revealed that overall, residential real estate in the country is now seeing very exciting times. “You see vertical cities rising in the Philippines. And it’s not just in Metro Manila,” she said. “You go to Davao, Cebu, it’s there.”

Tourism is also doing very well and the rise of co-working office spaces contribute to increased uptake of real estate developments, she said.“Do not fear. It will not burst. It’s alive. It’s booming,” Saldana said of Philippine real estate.

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