Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

RP eyes increased biz ties with Russia

Alexander Zusik, president of the Subic-based Philippine-Russia International Development Enterprise (PRI), said the company plans to develop the 36-hectare Coral Reef resort on Mactan Island and another project in Olongapo-Subic.
CEBU CITY—A Russian company based in the country announced in the first Russia-Philippines business conference its plan to invest $80 million to rehabilitate and develop a run-down resort on Mactan Island—the first from the list the company promised as large-scale Russian-funded projects in the country.

At the same time, the Arroyo administration is seeking to revive a pending air-service agreement with Russia in view of the improved business climate and tourism potentials of the country.

President Arroyo addressed the Philippine-Russian Business Conference held at the Cebu International Convention Center Friday, promising more access for trade, tourism and travel between the two countries.

The President, in a late-night address, said Russia is the new economic powerhouse of the century as she appealed to the Russian business and government representatives to follow up with their Ministry of Transport the signing of the air-services agreement on their side of the deal.

Some 60 Russian businessmen attended the conference held in time for the 440th anniversary of the founding of Cebu province.

“We want to increase our trade relations with Russia. At the same time, we are working to build new industries, such as the business-process outsourcing [BPO], where the Philippines is a global powerhouse, as well as to develop our mining sector,” the President said.

According to a Malacañang statement, Mrs. Arroyo asked the Russian Federation Chargé d’affaires Sergei Shepilov, who was seated beside her at the forum, the reason behind the delay in the signing of the air pact.

Quoting Shepilov, the President said the Russians are trying to “match the ministers” of both countries before the signing of the agreement.

“I will send my transportation minister anywhere, anytime so that the two ministers can sign the agreement together,” the President replied, adding that she can now visualize how much tourism potentials remain to be exploited when both countries have an air agreement in place.

Mrs. Arroyo noted the renewed ties between the Philippines and Russia, through the economic forum in Cebu, as a welcome development where the country is “privileged” to have such a relationship with one of the world’s largest economic houses of the 21st century.”

She said the Philippines and Russia should work together to build a future based on “mutual trust, respect and understanding.”

The Russian government is seeking to invest in BPO and mining.

Alexander Zusik, president of the Subic-based Philippine-Russia International Development Enterprise (PRI), said the company plans to develop the 36-hectare Coral Reef resort on Mactan Island. It is also eyeing two large projects in Camarines Sur and another project in Subic.

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“We are also planning to develop properties that can be taken over by interested businessmen in the future,” Zusik said through an interpreter.

The company, owned by several Russian investors and local partners, are looking at leisure and residential markets for Russians, expatriates and even the Filipino market.

The Coral Reef project alone will boast of 600 hotel rooms, 300 apartment units, 8,000 square meter of office space and 20 exclusive villas, and will feature a 2-kilometer coastline and an inland saltwater lake.

“We are trying to create a seafront property that people will never forget once they come here,” Zusik said.

Zusik said they are currently presenting the project to property owner Philippine National Bank. The project could be completed in two years.

The honorary consul of Russia to Cebu, Armi Garcia, organizer of the business conference, said the thrust of the partnership with Russia is tourism, trade and investments.

Garcia said tourism and trade between the two countries had been negligible which should be developed with the new link.

The honorary consul also identified Cebu’s unique position with a flight from Mactan International Airport to Vladivostok via Incheon in Korea through Korean Air and Vlada Air.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said the province boasts of the perfect amalgam of ingredients that should satisfy the travel and investment needs of the Russians.

“The most perfect ingredient, I believe, is its people,” the governor said.

She said the Cebu-Russian connection would surely pave the way for the future of trade in the country.

The Philippines will also be sending its own products to Russia. The effort is being started by the Philippine International Trading Corp. with its plan to set up a showroom in Russia to feature products like furniture, fashion accessories as well as those from the gifts, toys and houseware industry.

In June this year, the President made a three-day official visit coinciding with the 13th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The Arroyo administration has been pushing for Russia’s approval of the air pact as a vital component of its tourism program.

Since diplomatic relations were established with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1976, the Philippines has concluded 22 agreements with Russia on various concerns of interest to both countries. Written by Willy Rodolfo III & Recto Mercene / Business Mirror Reporters

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