Aboitiz expands in Balamban; 14,000 jobs, retail hub eyed

BEYOND maritime businesses, Aboitiz InfraCapital (AIC), the infrastructure arm of the Aboitiz Group, wants to attract the automotive, manufacturing and logistics industries to occupy the 39-hectare industrial expansion of West Cebu Estate.

Some 14,000 jobs are expected to be added for the ongoing expansion, bringing West Cebu Estate’s working population to 28,000.

“While our 30-year track record may have been founded on shipbuilding, this is an opportune time for us to host diverse industries which has always been our vision for this industrial-anchored mixed-use estate,” said Rafael Fernandez de Mesa, president of Cebu Industrial Park Developers Inc. (Cipdi) and head of Aboitiz InfraCapital Economic Estates, in a statement.

Ship building

West Cebu Estate is a 540-hectare mixed-use development in Balamban, Cebu and is a 60-40 joint venture between the Aboitiz Group and Tsuneishi Holdings of Japan.

The estate is anchored by a 283-hectare Philippine Economic Zone Authority registered zone that has complementary commercial, institutional and residential components. It hosts 11 locators from medium to heavy industries, some of which are the biggest shipbuilding firms in the world like Austal Philippines, Tsuneishi Heavy Industries and Advance Catamaran Composites, making Balamban the shipbuilding capital of the Philippines.

Austal Philippines recently delivered the largest, high-speed Catamaran it ever built in its 35-year history — the Express 5. The 115-meter smart passenger ship, powered by a medium-speed LNG-adapted power plant, can carry 1,610 passengers and 450 cars and travel at a speed of 37 knots.

The milestones of Austal and other shipbuilders there serve as a testament to the growth and recognition that West Cebu Estate can facilitate for companies, AIC said.

“We celebrate the success of Austal Philippines and take it as proof that we are ready to welcome a wider mix of locators,” said de Mesa.

Beyond maritime

Responding by email to SunStar Cebu’s queries, the company said Aboitiz’s industrial expansion in Balamban “is progressing ahead of schedule and will cater to industries beyond maritime, such as automotive, manufacturing and logistics.”

“We’ve been in talks with potential locators across industries, including foreign manufacturing companies, and they have shown interest in the planned development expansion,” the company said.

Phase 2 of the project, which will give rise to a central business district and commercial lots for various uses, will start by the third quarter of 2023. There will be 15 lots in total, ranging from one- to five-hectare areas.

Retail hub

Within the estate, AIC will also build West Cebu Exchange, a four-hectare commercial complex that will house food outlets, retail shops, basic services, a supermarket, a transportation hub and communal parks, to cater to the growing population of the estate itself and Balamban town in general.

De Mesa said the firm will also consider putting up high-rise office towers for business process management and residential components once the market is ready for such products.

The expansion is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2024.

“Beyond West Cebu Estate’s strategic location, its skilled population and lower cost of doing business make it a viable investment destination that can significantly drive growth in Balamban and the province of Cebu. This is largely underpinned by our expanding employment opportunities, combined with our well-established mixed-use economic estate catering to more light, medium and heavy industries,” said de Mesa.

In 1992, Balamban, Cebu was a simple coastal town that transformed into a first-class municipality when Cipdi began operations in the area to develop the West Cebu Industrial Park (WCIP), now West Cebu Estate.

The initial success of WCIP enabled the estate to grow from 202 to 540 hectares. More than 14,000 skilled workers are employed by its industrial and commercial locators.

AIC operates three economic estates—Mactan Economic Zone 2 Estate in Lapu-Lapu City, West Cebu Estate in Balamban, Cebu and the Lima Estate in Batangas.

Of the total P78 billion in capital expenditures set by the Aboitiz Group this year, AIC gets the lion’s share of P32 billion. This will go towards the continuous expansion of AIC’s economic estates, telecommunication towers business, as well as new investments in digital infrastructure.