Downsouth — By Hernani De Leon of BusinessWorld

Cagayan de Oro City – Travel between this city and Davao, which now takes over eight hours, has been less convenient compared to previous years. Erratic weather and increasing vehicular traffic, especially with the presence of cargo trucks, have adversely affected the condition of the highway that now requires frequent repairs.

The changing landscape between the island’s northern and southern regions, passing through scenic Bukidnon province, has been dramatic in recent years. From new town halls, public markets and transport terminal complexes two to five years ago, construction along the highway has shifted to business structures such as shopping malls and upscale restaurants.

Like Davao, this city is also experiencing a property boom and, again, the big projects are a mix of government and private sector initiatives.

Consumers are also apparently equally upbeat. This city’s downtown was vibrant last weekend with big crowds in shopping malls and in the old commercial district.
In addition, Plaza Divisoria’s Friday night market, Mindanao’s best source of good-quality used garments and shoes, still attracts consumers looking for bargains notwithstanding intermittent rains. This is not surprising since operations in industrial enclaves all over the region, which resorted to retrenchments and work slowdown about this time last year, have returned to normal and probably doing better.

Amid the positive outlook, it is still uncertain, however, when Korean industrial giant Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co. would proceed on its $2-billion shipyard project that begun at the Phividec Industrial Estate two years ago. The same firm, on the other hand, is taking the lead in the P8-billion Laguindingan international airport located less than 40 kilometers west of this city’s downtown.

The airport, a flagship project of the Arroyo administration, is expected to be fully operational by 2011 with major facilities constructed this year most likely before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down in June. There is a hitch, though, for travelers. The distance between this city and Laguindingan airport could taxi passengers P500 for a distance of close to 40 kilometers. The problem, however, could be avoided if a shuttle service is offered between the new airport and the national highway, a distance of less than five kilometers, where public transport — from passenger vans to air-conditioned buses — is available.

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The subject of conversations at this city’s coffee shops last weekend was a report from local media quoting Mayor Constantino G. Jaraula that Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) will soon build a P4.5-billion shopping mall, the biggest in Mindanao, at the city’s Indahag district.

Previous reports noted that the project would be in Lapasan on a land owned by the Davao-based Antonio Floirendo Group, or Anflocor. The Floirendo property is between the Gaisano shopping mall and Limketkai complex in Cagayan de Oro’s emerging central business district.

The news first came out in late 2008 after the launching of ALI’s mixed-use Abreeza project in Davao. Also owned by the Floirendos, the Abreeza project site has nine hectares in Bajada at the fringes of the Davao City central business district. It includes a three-floor shopping mall, commercial and residential condominiums and contact center buildings.

Antonio R. Floirendo, Jr., Anflocor president, told local media back then that ALI will also have a joint venture with Anflocor in a similar project in Cagayan de Oro. Since that time, however, ALI has not confirmed the information.

Incidentally, development of the P5-billion Abreeza project in Davao appears to be delayed based on an official announcement made in late 2008. The project’s schedule indicated a scheduled completion of one of two business process outsourcing buildings by the last quarter of 2009.

There’s a big structure rising on the project site but it would not likely be completed in three months since the view from outside the compound only presents raw concrete, steel frames and bars. The target for all Abreeza phases, by the way, is 2011 or only 11 months away.

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