SIGHT FOR SORE EYES. Secretary Raul L. Lambino, administrator and CEO at Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), prepares to enter, along with other dignitaries, one of the blockchain summits in the Philippines in 2018. The events marked the handover of licenses to 23 overseas virtual currency exchange (OVSCE) offshore companies. (EKU)
UNDER a determined and committed — not to say no-nonsense — leadership of Secretary Raul L. Lambino, administrator and CEO, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) in 2018 scored a string of major successes in pledged investments one after the other.
Credit this to his ability to provide the right stimulus package to attract foreign investors to the Zone.
To start off, in no particular order, CEZA received a huge shot-in-the-arm through a agreements with two Chinese companies for the establishment of a magnetic levitation (Maglev) train development hub worth U.S.$1.5 billion in Zone focused on the development and production of the ultra highs-speed trains, the world’s fastest floating trains.
The companies are the Hunan Goke Maglev Technology Development Ltd., of Changsa City, which is into train technology, and the Hong Kong-based Eminova Asset Management Ltd., which is engaged in finance. They will put up the $1.5-billion investment for the initial research and development (R&D) effort.
A major beach destination in Northern Luzon
CEZA secured a U.S.$30-million investment made by the Taiwan Electronic Company-Electric Vehicle (TECO-EV) that is expected to catalyze the production of EV in support of the agency’s advocacy of green technology.
Also in the green technology industry, the Zone also won over China’s Zhejiang Guannan Group, the world’s leading apparel manufacturer, which is set to break new ground in 2019 for “green” textile production and real estate development in the Zone covered by a $100-million initial investment.
The municipality of Sta. Ana is poised to become the country’s next major beach destination as Shanghai’s Jucheng Supply Management Group is pouring $100 million into the municipality to put up an integrated resort designed to be a magnet for local and international visitors and a catalyst for the local economy.
For next to its fine white beaches, Santa Ana offers some of the finest unspoiled natural beauties of Luzon’s extreme northeast.
“This is one of the few unspoiled spots in Luzon that will cater to the sun worshiper, the nature lover, and the adventurer,” said Lambino.
‘City Polaris’ modern city to rise at CEZA
The Jucheng Group, which counts among its varied operations the production of high-performance lithium batteries, he said, also wants to go into local steel production using black sand and to set up port operations in Cagayan province to shore up its efforts.
Better healthcare is also in the 2019 CEZA horizon as a Slovak firm is stepping in to build a modern hospital in the Zone that will help boost health care not just for tourists and locators but also for the entire Northern Luzon population.
Lambino described this development aptly: “This is the beginning of a new era of health care in our region.” At the same time, he added, CEZA would be giving added premium to medical tourism and retirement communities.
But the crown of them all is the proposed $4.5-billion joint venture between CEZA and a leading local property development and global entertainment firm — First Cagayan Leisure Resorts Corporation, Asia’s online gaming industry pioneer.
It will by the name “City Polaris,” which is inspired by the North Star — the bright point of light nearly directly above the Earth’s magnetic North Pole, a guide through the centuries for countless mariners and aviators that kept them straying off-course.
Lambino said “City Polaris” will be master-planned by a well-known Italian company, Mercurio Design Lab, and financed by Singapore-based LongRunn Capital Pte. Ltd.
“The modern city will be built to compete with the best in Asia and the world, with six-star hotels, iconic architecture, competition golf courses, water theme parts, cyberparks and the latest amenities and innovations,” he said.
This year construction will start on a scenic mountainside overlooking the enchanting Palau Island — and if LongRunn Capital’s work timetable will not run into unexpected delays, the 500-hectare city could be inaugurated sometime in early 2021, he said.
“We have never imagined in our lifetime a project of this magnitude and scale,” Lambino said, adding that LongRunn Capital’s commitment to finish the construction in two years “is the other major surprise.”
LongRunn Capital is not about to rest on “City Polaris,” it has also lined up other major investments in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP), being managed by the Zone. The company will provide a unifying vision for the satellite city and the communities that are likely to emerge around this entertainment gem.
Cagayan North International Airport
LongRunn Capital signed a joint venture agreement with Cagayan Premium to develop, upgrade, expand and modernize the Cagayan North International Airport (CNIA) with a multi-storey passenger terminal, modern facilities and MRO services, as well as a new regional airline company.
A multiple-lane expressway that will connect Santa Ana and Lallo, the airport town about 60 kms to the southwest, would cut travel time between the two municipalities to under 30 minutes to ensure easy access to City Polaris by an expected influx of tourists and travelers.
It can be recalled that CNIA in mid-2018 received the long-awaited International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) certification by the International Association of Travel Agencies (IATA), which cleared the last hurdle for the CNIA to go full blast into commercial operation. “With an airport code and a spot in the global travel map, CNIA can now operate international flights. Cagayan province, not only CEZA, is entering a new age,” said Lambino.
Let’s not forget the CEZA administrator’s brainchild, the “Crypto Valley of Asia” that has so far assured itself of at least 23 overseas virtual currency exchange (OVCE) locators which paid a total of Php400 million in 2018.
“But their biggest contributions are expected to overflow CEZA’s coffers this year…when their asset-backed tokens start to be traded in the offshore market and their coins used as tokens in the lucrative online gaming industry,” said Lambino.
CEZA and its leadership is counting on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as digital assets enjoy certain unmatched advantages.
CEZA’s City Polaris aims to establish a veritable hub for cryptocurrency trading and cutting-edge blockchain technology to boost the status of the Crypto Valley.
To locate at CEZA, the OVCE firms have to make an initial investment of $1 million, and once given the license to operate, had to put a minimum of Php2 billion in investment, and sign up at least a minimum of four traders and brokers.
Lambino said CEZA is creating “an ideal atmosphere that will inspire the best minds of the young generation and the world’s leading cryptocurrency companies to engage in the development of the next wave of technological breakthroughs.”
Meralco to handle CEZA’s power needs
Meanwhile, CEZA signed a deal that enables the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to manage the Zone’s surging power requirements as the country’s newest investment jewel.
The Zone is also adapting to innovative technology in the fastest time possible as shown by an agreement with Converge Information and Communications Technology (Converge ICT), giving the internet provider the green light to install underground fiber optic cable and aerial distribution network to secure a digitally enabled special economic zone.
Converge’s submarine cable will be linked to Taiwan and 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.
Remember that when he assumed office, Lambino led a crackdown on online gamng, cancelling and their registration and their 266 business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, their back offices. He also put a stop to online “sabong” (cockfighting).
Remember also the fleet of high-end cars that passed through Port Irene illegally, the Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and collector’s Maserati, GT3, Alpina B12, Opel Manta, Renault R5, Hummers, Lamboghinis, Land Cruisers, and Harley Davidson big bikes were rolled over by a bulldozer and backhoe witnessed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and a host of other government officials.
It was Lambino’s start at giving CEZA a squeaky-clean image, meaning that “CEZA does not, and will never tolerate, condone or encourage smuggling or wrongdoing of any kind in the Freeport.”
Amidst the feats of CEZA in 2018, Lambino and along with the other officials and personnel of the Zone, the motivation is to top last year’s performance. (EKU)