Cagayan de Oro City – An Italian diplomat has lauded an Italo-Filipino joint venture company for venturing into the less travelled regions of the Philippines and promoting Italian design and architecture into the mainstream of Filipino culture.
From left to right: Mr. Ilac Diaz, Executive Director of My Shelter Foundation; Mr. Alfonso Tagliaferri First Secretary & Deputy Head of Mission from the Embassy of the Philippines; Mr. Romolo V. Nati, President & CEO of Italpinas
“I salute Mr. Romolo Nati for being a pioneer and bringing Italian ideas like the green lifestyle in sustainable architecture and design,” said Alfonso Tagliaferri, first secretary and deputy chief of mission at the Italian Embassy to the Philippines, located in Makati, Manila. “He has started something new here in best practices for an architect which even bigger developers in Manila are not doing.”
Mr. Tagliaferri, who also heads the Italian Embassy’s Office of Political and Economic Affairs, was one of the guests of honor during the 01 September 2011 launch of the Primavera Residences showroom at Pueblo de Oro Township.
Primavera Residences is a 10-story mixed use twin tower condominium designed by ITA Project, an Italian architectural design firm based in Rome with a solid reputation for award winning eco-friendly buildings, and developed by Italpinas Euroasian Design & Eco-Development Corporation, an Italo-Filipino joint venture corporation and sustaining member of the Philippines Green Building Council headed by Mr. Jose P. Leviste, Jr. as chairman.
“This project is a very good example of fruitful collaboration between the Philippines and Italy, made even more significant by its adoption of sustainable architecture,” Mr. Tagliaferri said. “This goes a long way towards lifting up the profile of the Philippines in Italy where it is not very well known at present.”
“That is why the Italian Ambassador Luca Fornari decided to organize last June a road show in Italy regarding “Doing Business in the Philippines” which received surprising attention among Italian companies and which ended in the publication of a brief guide for the Italian investor in this Country,” he added.
Although there is a number of Italian investments in the provinces, Mr. Tagliaferri said these are mostly smaller in scale such as furniture factories, restaurants or vacation resorts. There is encouraging interest by Italian companies in the energy and infrastructure sectors, but they are still at the level of the feasibility study.
To date, the biggest Italian direct investment in the Philippines was made by Assicurazioni Generali, the biggest life insurance company in Europe, in Generali Pilipinas, one of the bigger players in the Philippines.
Government statistics from the Board of Investments and Philippine Economic Zone Authority show Italian direct investments in the country fluctuating between P106.8 to .101 million pesos between 2007 and the 1st quarter of 2010. Of 23 BOI-registered Italian investments in the country, the biggest projects listed include the P300.44-million FRP pipe project of Sarplast Phils., Inc. and P250-million Dakak Beach Resort.
Mr. Tagliaferri noted that although Italian investments overseas have significantly increased with globalization, inflows into the country have been small and intermittent. Italian investments often do not only involve equity but also technology transfer, given the high level of technology, high value added and comparative advantage of Italian design and manufacturing.
But for Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao at least, Mr. Nati said the Primavera Residences could be the catalyst for the entry of Italian tourists and businessmen in much the same way the Koresco Group opened the gates for Korean businessmen and tourists with Koresco Hotel, which is also located in the Pueblo de Oro Township.
“Although Italians are very adventurous, they will not visit places they don’t know about and are very conservative about investing in areas where they don’t see fellow Italians,” Mr. Nati said. “Italian investors go where Italian tourists are. They like to find their own people and eat their own food.”
Earlier this year, advisors of Italian investors visiting Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao to personally check into the Primavera project said they would be delighted to recommend the city and region to their fellow Italians.
Francesco Consalvi and Christian Stefano Marri of Rome both said they were perplexed why Italians had so little knowledge of the Philippines until now.
"When we arrived here, it was like coming home," said the Mr. Consalvi, a Rome-based lawyer who represents Italian clients scouting real estate investments abroad. Consalvi said they found the country most ideal for tourism and investment because of common cultural traits shared by Filipinos and Italians like Roman Catholicism and the fondness for food and zest for life.
During their stay in the Philippines, the two said they were most impressed with the natural wonders of Cagayan de Oro and its environs such as its natural forests, coral gardens which could be outstanding dive sites, and eco-tourism attractions such as white water rafting, ziplining, diving and other attractions all within easy reach of the soon-to-be-completed Laguindingan international standard airport. They also cited its pleasant weather with no typhoons, security and safety, healthy cuisine, and amenities, especially the world class Pueblo de Oro golf course.
"Philippine food and dishes are very good, one of the best I have tasted," said Mr. Consalvi, who has traveled extensively in Asia and the Middle East. "Compared to Sharm-el-Sheikh and other world class dive sites, we would prefer your Camiguin and Duka Bay (Medina, Misamis Oriental) because it´s very difficult for us Italians to assimilate in countries with vastly different cultures and religions."
Mr. Marri is a businessman who represents a group of Italian and French investors. He has extensive links in media as a consultant for National Geographic (Italy) and formerly SKY (an Italian-based Rupert Murdoch media company).
However, much remains to be done before the city can look forward to visits by Italian tourists and investments from Italian investors. Among those cited by the group were the establishment of direct air routes to Italy to facilitate easy travel between the two countries, and even more important, increased exposure in Italian media for Philippine tourism and investment prospects.
Mr. Nati said he has been encouraged by the positive response to Primavera Residences by prospective Italian investors like Messrs. Consalvi and Marri who have both already bought residential units in the eco-friendly condominium for their personal use and are negotiating purchase for the remaining commercial unit in its Tower A inventory.