Interview: Bernard Vincent Dy

In what ways can mixed-use developments help ensure environmental sustainability?

BERNARD VINCENT DY: Developers who are focused on mixed-use communities need to have a broader view of sustainability – one that identifies initiatives for a wider market. Within this framework, four key sustainability initiatives have been integrated into our mixed-use developments.

The first initiative emphasises safety and site resilience. The Philippines is susceptible to natural disasters. It is therefore imperative to find sites that are less prone to natural hazards, such as flooding. We also minimise any earth moving done on-site, opting instead to work with the existing topography and around the natural environment. Furthermore, we maintain ample open spaces and vegetation that act as additional protective buffers. These interventions have allowed our developments to be more resilient to calamities.

A second sustainability initiative is to encourage pedestrianisation and transport connectivity. We achieve this through the construction of walkways, public transport facilities and other infrastructure that enable people to make more responsible, environment-friendly choices. We also ensure that our developments are connected to the surrounding communities to facilitate ease of access and commutes.

Third, we work to optimise energy, water and waste management. Through judicious investments in facilities and technology, and fine-tuning our day-to-day operating practices, we have substantially reduced water and electricity consumption in our residential developments, shopping centres and offices.

Lastly, we put in a lot of effort to ensure inclusive development. Our existing mixed-use developments not only impact our own communities, but also have significant influence on the economic development of the surrounding areas. From the planning and construction stages of the development, until the estate finally becomes a thriving community, numerous employment opportunities are generated. Typically, we prioritise hiring and generate most of the employment in our developments from the adjacent communities.

What factors are driving the decentralisation of mixed-use projects in the Philippines?

DY: The Philippines has been one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, buoyed by the steady growth in overseas Filipino worker remittances, a thriving business process outsourcing industry and investments in local manufacturing. This has fuelled urbanisation and property development, expanding to neighbouring provinces around Metro Manila and key cities across the country. This development has fostered growth in the real estate sector, paving the way for the decentralisation of mixed-use projects, and allowing developers to introduce new models to address the growing demand for housing, leisure, retail and employment.

Increased infrastructure spending has also distributed development throughout the archipelago. Airports, seaports and roads play a key role in expanding economic activity into new regions. It connects less developed regions to more developed economies in the country, thereby creating highly synergistic growth. For example, Pampanga is a fast-growing micro-economy supported by seamless connectivity to Manila through the North Luzon Expressway, and to both the Subic Bay and Clark Freeport Zones through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway. The government has identified Clark Freeport Zone as a major area of investment and is currently pursuing an expansion of the airport. As a result, we expect economic activity to accelerate as more people gravitate towards northern Luzon, generating opportunities for developers to build new mixed-use communities in the region.

Given the focus of the current administration to decentralise growth into rural areas through infrastructure development and tax reform, we expect further development to accelerate across multiple growth centres outside the country’s established metro areas.