By Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 29 (PNA) — The race towards locating in this prime Bicol city is on among the country’s giant business empires.
Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. of the Gokongwei Group of Companies, is setting its eyes on the establishment of a giant commercial complex across the street within the heart of the city’s business district where Henry Sy’s SM Prime Holdings is constructing its huge SM City mall.
A stone’s throw from the site sits the Pacific Mall Legazpi being run within a sprawling business complex by the Gaisano Grand Group of Companies of the Cebu-based Gaisano family.
The mall, located at a prime location within an over two-hectare property, opened in 2001 as the centerpiece of the Landco Business Park, a master-planned central business district in the heart of the city.
One block away from this establishment is the ongoing construction of the Php1-billion four-level mall building within a 1.5-hectare land that will house the City Center Mall of Ayala Corp. (AC) being established in partnership with Liberty Commercial Center, Inc. (LCCI), a local retail business giant that runs the multi-branched Liberty Commercial Center (LCC).
The plan is for the establishment of a four-level world-class shopping and lifestyle hub to be called Robinson’s Place Legazpi, which will also house the Summit Hotel, Go Hotel, a business process outsourcing (BPO) center and a multi-level parking area.
Eyed to become the biggest among Robinsons retail outfits outside Metro Manila, the proposed mall is expected to carry a more prestigious name “Robinsons Galleria Legazpi” patterned after the Robinsons Galleria Cebu.
It will rise within an expansive vacant land separated by Imelda C. Roces Avenue from the 10-hectare site adjoining the Legazpi City Grand Terminal to be occupied by SM City Legazpi’s four-level building for the SM Department Store, SM Supermarket, SM Cyberzone, SM Appliance Center, a five-level car park, four digital cinemas and other luxurious lifestyle amenities.
Acquisition of the property from its private owner by the Gokongwei company is almost done and preparations of the site for construction activities are ongoing.
City Mayor Noel Rosal, who has been vigorously promoting Legazpi as Bicol’s center of investment, on Tuesday said the Gokongwei group has long been looking for a bigger space here for this kind of establishment.
He said Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. is no longer a stranger in the city as it has been running for almost three years now its supermarket at a prime location near the city hall and the Albay provincial Capitol as part of one of the largest and most successful chains of malls in the country today.
The Gokongwei group also runs the Legazpi Savings Bank, which is touted as the biggest thrift bank in Bicol based here, after acquiring it in 2012 from its former owner, Albay 2nd district Congressman Al Francis Bichara, who also acquired it from its previous owner while he was serving as the province’s governor between years 1995-2004.
Ahead of the planned Robinsons Galleria Legazpi, the Gokongwei group is opening the Robinsons Bank and Robinsons Appliances Center at the three-story Gregorian Mall and Activity Center whose construction within a prime site at the city’s Albay District is nearing completion.
Gregorian Mall’s location is adjoining the site of the newly opened branch of Henry Sy’s Banco de Oro (BDO), the fourth in the city.
The construction of the SM City Legazpi building will start immediately after a groundbreaking ceremony set this October and its opening is scheduled in December 2016, while AC’s City Center Mall is set to open in December this year.
Several other less known business groups have also been locating in the city as seen from the ongoing massive construction activities taking place all around the commercial district.
Rosal said “these companies are very keen on establishing here to take advantage of the favorable local business climate owing to the massive tourism and private investment promotions we have been relentlessly doing as Legazpi heads towards becoming a highly urbanized city.”
Big investors, he said, were now racing with each other to locate here, especially that the city had been named as the second most livable urban locality in the country next to Iloilo as determined by the Most Livable City Challenge conducted last year under the auspices of the United States Assistance for International Development (USAID).
With all these multi-billion-peso investments, the mayor said the city has been emerging as the new shopping and investment haven in Bicol, given its strategic location, being the regional government center and center of transportation, health services and education.
The city boasts of an expansive market that extends from the entire province of Albay to the adjoining provinces of Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon, down to Samar areas.
“We are impressed by this response of the country’s leading investors to our call for investments after the Department of Trade and Industry cited the Legazpi as the most business-friendly city in Bicol for its prompt compliance with the government’s simplified Business Permit and Licensing System (BPLS),” Rosal said.
The Department of Interior and Local government (DILG) has also named Legazpi as Bicol’s “most business-friendly local government unit”, citing its effectiveness and efficiency in paving the way for the place to become a haven of investments.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recognized the city as the most business-friendly for the whole of South Luzon.
The Asian Institute of Management named Legazpi as one of the most competitive cities in the Philippines.
Apart from all these, the city is also recognized as one of the best places of business process outsourcing outside Metro Manila when it advanced in 2011 to the 10 next wave cities in the country’s industry list of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines. (PNA)