Could a Philippine island be the next Singapore or Hong Kong?

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Qatari real estate firm has big plans for the Philippines

Aerial view of tropical islands near Palawan, Philippines. Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock
Aerial view of tropical islands near Palawan, Philippines. Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

With white sandy coasts that seem to stretch on forever, and an unbeatable trove of natural resources, the Philippines has been a puzzle to economists: Why isn’t any of its 7,107 islands as economically advanced as Hong Kong, Singapore, or Taiwan?

A Qatar-based real estate company is putting that question to the test. Al Nitaq is proposing to lease various islands in the archipelago, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) revealed this week to Gulf News.

“The Shaikh of Qatar has pushed the real estate company to take advantage of the Philippines’ strong economic growth and attractive investment scheme,” said Charito Plaza, director general at PEZA.

These islands will be divided into economic zones for agroforestry and agro-industry. Other islands will be set apart as energy centres and tourist destinations.

More: Millionaires’ problem: private beach or private island?

The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) has been tasked to identify suitable islands for leasehold by foreign investors.

President Rodrigo Duterte broached the notion of leasing Philippine islands to foreign entities earlier this year. “If we can lease our land for military bases, why not lease an island… to create our own version of Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore?” he said. “The jobs will come here. Going abroad must be a choice, not a necessity.”

“From the 51st year to the 99th year, they will pay rental for those buildings and infrastructure from the Philippines, thereby creating the country’s income,” he added.

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