According to the data provided by The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), it experienced a “surge of investments” after it was converted into a crypto and blockchain hub. It also attributes these developments to the retooling of its online gaming industry minus the control of a duopoly.
Both programs are part of the three-pronged initiative that economic zone is pursuing led by Raul Lambino, administrator and CEO at CEZA, to turn it into a haven for financial technology (fintech) innovation and tourism-driven entertainment.
The changes in CEZA that the current administration has implemented are meant to restore confidence in the agency. The most visible benefits were felt within a few months when a new wave of big players (locators) from overseas started flowing in, attracted by the suddenly diversifying, oxygen-fed air of a formerly suffocating economic zone.
In mid-May, Lambino unveiled the cryptocurrency initiative called “Crypto Valley in Asia,” an innovation, according to CEZA, that will set off a rush of cryptocurrency and fintech firms to locate in Santa Ana, applying with CEZA as Principal Licensees for blockchain and virtual currency trading.
This transpired despite CEZA’s high ceiling for the initial investment to be made by the licensed exchanges just to locate their permanent offices in Santa Ana: $100,000 for application fees, $150,000 for license fees, and $1 million each as investment commitment to be delivered in two years.
At the end of 2018, 23 offshore fintech firms were given principal licensees by the agency. Every exchange, once given the license to operate, had to put up a minimum of P2 billion in investment, and sign up at least a minimum of four traders or brokers.
The third innovation is what CEZA considers as the most ambitious in scope, in scale, in vision, and in goals: A new satellite city southwest of Santa Ana.
It is a proposed $4.5 billion joint venture between CEZA and local property development and global entertainment firm, First Cagayan Leisure Resorts Corp.
It will be named “City Polaris and will be master-planned by the Italian company Mercurio Design Lab and financed by Singapore-based LongRunn Capital Pte. Ltd. The modern city will rise with integrated resorts, six-star hotels, public and championship golf courses, water theme parks, movie theme parks, retirement village, private villas, condominiums, cyber parks, and iconic architecture and the latest amenities and innovations—one of the finest in this part of the world.
Construction will begin this year in Palaui Island and in another seaside site and is hoped to be inaugurated sometime in early 2021.
LongRunn Capital has lined up other major investments in the Zone, one of them a joint venture with Cagayan Premium to develop, upgrade, expand and modernize the Cagayan North International Airport in Lallo with a multi-story passenger terminal, modern facilities and MRO services, and a new regional airline company.
A multiple lane expressway connecting Santa Ana and Lal-lo, the airport town some 60 km to the southwest, would be constructed to cut travel time between them to thirty minutes or less.
Shanghai’s Jucheng Supply Management Group is pouring $100 million into the development of an integrated resort promoting its pristine white beaches. The resort will rise in the middle of some of the finest unspoiled natural beauties of Luzon’s extreme northeast region.
Apparel manufacturer, China’s Zhejiang Guannan Group, is breaking new ground in the Zone this year with a $100-million initial investment for “green” textile production and real estate development.
To boost health care for visitors and the entire Northern Luzon population, a Slovak firm stepped with a proposal to build a modern hospital. “The beginning of a new era of health care in our region,” said Lambino, adding that CEZA would give medical tourism and retirement communities an added premium.
Maglev train R&D hub
Two Chinese companies, one engaged in train technology and the other in finance, entered into agreements with CEZA to establish a hub in the Zone dedicated for the development and production of Maglev (magnetic levitation) trains, the world’s fastest floating trains. For the initial R&D effort, Hunan Goke Maglev Technology Development Ltd. of Changsa City and Hong Kong-based Eminova Asset Management Ltd are investing $1.5 billion.
A $30-million investment made by the Taiwan Electronic Company-EV will usher in the production of electric vehicles in support of the agency’s advocacy of green technology.
In August 2018, CNIA received the long-awaited International Civil Aviation Organization certification and accreditation by the International Association of Travel Agencies, clearing the last hurdle for it to go into full commercial operation.
To guarantee a stable electric power supply as the country’s emerging new investment jewel, CEZA signed a deal enabling the Manila Electric Company to manage the Zone’s surging power requirements.
In this technological age, CEZA is adapting to innovative technology as fast as it could. In an agreement, it gave Converge Information and Communications Technology Solutions the green light to install underground fiber optic cable and an aerial distribution network to secure a digitally-enabled special economic zone.
Linked to Taiwan and the world, the Converge submarine cable will boost the existing cable infrastructure built by LR Data and connected by submarine cable to Hong Kong, and by underground fiber optic line to its Makati City-based headquarters.
CEZA is also building three additional huge warehouses along the coast of Santa Ana where a coastal boulevard running all the way to nearby San Vicente Port, which will also be rehabilitated, will be constructed.
San Vicente will have a bigger wharf to allow cruise vessels to berth while also boosting facilities for inter-island services.
Two jetty ports that will be constructed in Palaui Island to go with the development of a 200-hectare property, part of a concept to turn it into a tourism enclave.
Nangaramoan beach, another destination off the beaten track, will have its share of development funds. CEZA has allocated part of its 2019 corporate budget for the building, near Nangaramoan’s beachfront, of rest houses and boutique hotels accessible to backpackers and budget tourists.