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Universal Studios theme park soon to rise in RP

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The arrival of a Universal Studios theme park in the Philippines is creating a huge buzz after the Genting Berhad Group secured the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.(Pagcor)’s nod for its proposed project within the Las Vegas-like Bagong Nayong Pilipino-Manila Bay Integrated Tourism City.

Pagcor chairman and chief executive officer Efraim Genuino said the Genting Group has committed to develop 35 hectares of the 90-hectare prime reclaimed land facing Manila Bay into a world-class tourist destination.

Genuino said the Genting Berhad Group is planning to invest $3 billion in the Manila Bay Integrated City, the Philippines’ biggest tourism development project.

The Genting Berhad Group owns the Genting Highlands Resort in Malaysia and holds the exclusive development rights of film giant Universal Studios in Asia. It has teamed up with its subsidiary Star Cruises and Alliance Global Inc., the listed investment holding firm of retail tycoon Andrew Tan, for its proposed project in the $15-20 billion casino resort complex along Manila Bay.

Genuino said the Genting Berhard Group’s proposal includes the development of leisure and entertainment facilities including a theme park, state-of-the-art theaters, amusement and cultural centers, retail and gaming center and hotels.

Universal Studio’s movie-theme Hollywood park has 13 attractions based on movies including Shrek, Jurassic Park and The Terminator. Excluding its restaurants and theaters, the theme park alone draws about four million visitors a year.

Besides Hollywood, Universal Studios has other parks in Orlando, Barcelona and Osaka, Japan.

Another investor group, Aruze Corp. of Japan is planning to put up an integrated resort featuring a hotel with 2,000 standard rooms and 300 VIP suites; a major oceanarium targeted to be the world’s largest; theaters, a sports arena, a Holy museum and a giant ferris wheel similar to the London Eye to be known as the Manila Eye.

The Aruze Group is likewise infusing $3 billion in capital for the development of 40 hectares of land in the Manila Bay Integrated City.

Genuino said Aruze, a leading gaming machine maker known for its ties with the popular Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas and Macau, may start development of its project in the second quarter this year which may take two years to complete.

Other groups whose project concepts have been approved by Pagcor include Bloomburry Investments Ltd. of Australia  which will develop 15 hectares of the reclaimed prime land, and the SM Investments Corp. (SMIC).

Bloomburry plans to build a hotel, sports arena and other tourist attractions.

Genuino said SMIC has yet to hatch a plan for the Manila Bay Integrated City but said this would be a unique concept. 

Tessie Sy, SMIC vice-chair, said that aside from developments within the Mall of Asia complex along Roxas Boulevard, the company may work on something in the future to further promote the tourism estate.

SMIC, together with international hotel firms Carlson Hotels Asia Pacific and Accor will develop and manage a 350-room hotel in SM Bay City, which will be located near the SMX Convention Center.

Meantime, two administration congressmen supported yesterday the Integrated Tourism City, saying the nation should rake in billions in potential income from the project instead of growing grass on reclaimed land.

“We also need jobs. We have 430,000 new college graduates a year, but not all can be absorbed by existing companies,” Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez, House trade and industry committee chairman, said in the midst of reports that Catholic bishops are opposing the plan.

Manila Rep. Amado  Bagatsing said he would prefer “that we grow money instead of grass on reclaimed land in Manila Bay.”

Alvarez said the Pagcor project would put the country in a position to catch a portion of China’s increasing spending on gambling.

“Due to China’s growing affluence, its 1.3 billion people are spending $70 billion in gambling bets a year, according to one estimate,” he said.

He said the gambling revenues of Macau, a Chinese territory, increased by 47 percent to $10.34 billion last year and have exceeded those of Las Vegas.

He said the Pagcor project could also prevent rich Filipinos from going to Macau or Las Vegas and would allow them to “just spend their money here.” - With Jess Diaz

GENTING BERHAD GROUP

GENUINO

LAS VEGAS

MANILA

MANILA BAY

MANILA BAY INTEGRATED CITY

PAGCOR

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

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