PHL billionaires propel Iloilo City’s growth

Iloilo City has been a beacon of development and modernization in Western Visayas, significantly propelled by public-private partnership (PPP) projects and substantial investments from major corporations captained by billionaire tycoons.

Even before tycoons from Luzon and other areas plunked in their billions and trust in Iloilo, homegrown billionaires like the Uygongco family have established the city’s stature as an industrial location, particularly in grains and feeds processing.

The Uygongcos were also responsible for helping stabilize the power generation side of Iloilo City by investing in Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), which operates three power plants that now run the economy of Western Visayas.

During the recent investment forum organized by the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation and the Metro-Iloilo Guimaras Development Council, the Uygongco Group at least P1 billion in investments in Iloilo.


Speaking of power, GBPC under the Metrobank group of the late George Ty was instrumental in the success Iloilo currently enjoys. Thirteen (13) years ago, Metrobank invested more than P14 billion to put up a 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant in La Paz, Iloilo City. It was followed by another with a 150MW capacity that cost P15 billion.

Iloilo City has set ambitious goals through its PPP projects, aiming to enhance connectivity, waste management, and market efficiency. The investments by major corporations are pivotal in realizing these PPP projects.

SM Group has committed significant resources towards the redevelopment of the Iloilo Central and Terminal markets, with an initial investment of PHP3 billion. This redevelopment project aims to enhance the business environment for around 2,800 market vendors, marrying modernity with the preservation of heritage.

The SM Group of the Sy Family also stimulated the local economy in the late 70s when they established the SM Department Store in Delgado Street in 1979. It was SM Group’s first venture outside Metro Manila and Luzon and has borne fruit since then with the SM City complex which is now an entertainment, leisure, residential, and employment hub in Iloilo.

Megaworld Group of tycoon Andrew Tan introduced the township concept to Iloilo City by developing the old airport property in Mandurriao district. The developer bought the 54-hectare airport lot and converted it into a mixed-use development complete with a mall and leisure areas, condominiums and office buildings.

The Ayala Group, a cornerstone of the Philippine industry, also developed a 35-hectare property in Mandurriao district into another mixed-use estate. It is also into renewable energy, transportation, and urban planning, emphasizing their commitment to smart and sustainable solutions

Other real estate players like DoubleDragon and the Gaisano Group have also expanded in the city over the past decade.


Meanwhile, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) has taken a leading role in water distribution via Metro Pacific Iloilo Water and Metro Iloilo Bulk Water Supply Corp.; and in environmental management through the waste-to-energy project.

These twin investments demonstrate the commitment of the Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) group to sustainable development and innovative solutions to urban challenges.

Metro Iloilo Water is gradually improving water distribution in Metro Iloilo by rehabilitating the pipelines using advanced technologies while Metro Iloilo Bulk Water has been developing new sources for the growing needs of Ilonggos.

The waste-to-energy project not only addresses waste management concerns but also contributes to the city’s energy needs, showcasing a multifaceted approach to urban development. This initiative targets environmental sustainability and also positions Iloilo City as a leader in adopting advanced waste management technologies in the Philippines.

In December of 2020, Meralco PowerGen Corp., also part of the Pangilinan group, purchased full ownership of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), the parent company of Panay Energy Development Corp., for P34.466 billion (approximately USD720 million).

Meralco paid that sum to acquire an 86% stake in the company as it already owned a 14% stake in GBPC.


The latest billionaire to roll the dice for Iloilo’s future is Enrique K. Razon, the man behind International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).

ICTSI recently secured a 25-year concession to develop and manage the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex (ICPC) in Loboc, LaPaz, Iloilo City.

ICTSI’s offer for the 25-year contract involves a concession fee of P750 million for the sixth to 10th year. It is larger than the minimum fixed concession fee of P500 million stated in the contract.

ICTSI executive vice president Christian Gonzalez emphasized that ICTSI’s proposal outlines significant investments in infrastructure upgrades, cargo-handling equipment, and operational efficiency measures to transform the Iloilo Port into a premier gateway.

ICPC currently features a 627-meter operational quay length and 20 hectares of land for container and general cargo storage, warehousing, and other cargo-handling activities.

The project will see around P1.1 billion in investments within the first two years and could balloon to P5 billion as cargo volume increases.

Razon also deepened his foray into the power industry by investing in the power distribution services of Iloilo City via MORE Electric and Power Corp.

MORE Power has invested more or less P2 billion in the past five years to improve the electricity infrastructure of the city. It is now gearing up for the deployment of advanced technology that will double the efficiency and reliability of the grid.

These projects collectively contribute to a broader economic revitalization and social upliftment in Iloilo City.

This wave of infrastructure and real estate investments has been crucial for sustaining Iloilo’s rapid economic growth. The city registered the highest regional GDP growth nationwide at 9.5 percent in 2021.

Investments have fueled thriving industries like tourism, retail, IT-BPM, and manufacturing in Iloilo. It has also met the demands of a growing population that is expected to nearly double in the next two decades.

Infrastructure developments, such as the proposed railway and expressway projects, are poised to reduce travel time, alleviate congestion, and enhance the logistics network, thereby fostering economic integration across the region.

The modernization of public markets and the establishment of a waste-to-energy facility not only cater to immediate urban needs but also lay the groundwork for long-term sustainability and resilience.

The involvement of big Philippine corporations in these initiatives is a testament to the potential of PPPs in driving national development and the potential of Iloilo as a business and living hub in Asia.

These collaborations underscore the importance of leveraging private sector resources and expertise to achieve public goals, setting a precedent for other cities in the Philippines and beyond.

Still, more partnerships and inclusive growth policies are needed to ensure economic progress creates jobs and opportunities for ordinary Ilonggos. But there is no denying Iloilo’s rise as a hub for Western Visayas is underpinned by fruitful collaboration between the local government and major Philippine conglomerates.

Iloilo City’s journey towards becoming a model of urban development and sustainability in the Philippines is well underway, thanks to the strategic utilization of PPPs and the active participation of major corporations.

These efforts reflect a commitment to not just economic growth, but also to environmental sustainability, heritage preservation, and social inclusivity.

As these projects progress, Iloilo City is set to solidify its status as a vibrant, dynamic urban center in the Philippines, showcasing the power of collaborative development.


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