January 1, 2017
To: Balesin Members and Friends
Today is the first day of the New Year and as is my usual practice, I am writing you this update.
Holiday Season at Balesin
We had a very busy holiday season here at Balesin with over 5,000 members and their guests over the holidays, this despite Typhoon Nina which passed some 200 kilometers south of Balesin on December 26, but we hardly felt it on the island.
Our Aviation group responded with flying colors and we were able to transport over 600 people in a single day during the busiest periods. Our operations staff here at the island were worked off their feet, and for the most part they also came through with flying colors as we have had hardly any complaints except for the usual minor delays in transportation within the island. We now have 15 jeepneys and over 100 golf carts in Balesin but the demand sometimes overstrains our capabilities.
We had a full entertainment package during the holidays, capped by the usual fantastic performance of Gary V on December 30, when we had a full house attendance of some 500 guests. On various other days, we were also fortunate to have the performance of Opus One (the three tenors), Mojofly, and Joey San Andres & The Mailbox. The usual New Year countdown was also most enjoyable, with members and guests partying until the wee hours at the Clubhouse itself and at the Music Lounge in Costa del Sol.
I should give special recognition to our F&B staff, under the direction of our Executive Chef Mark Biddle. Members and guests were unanimous about the quality of the food, even during the New Year’s Eve buffet. While there were some lapses in the service because our staff was kept extremely busy with the torrent of party-makers, we did pretty well.
Let me now move on to some of the things that you can look forward to in 2017:
2nd ATR 72
Sometime this month of January, we will be acquiring a second ATR72-500. As those of you who have now flown this aircraft know, the ATR 72 feels like a regular airliner and gets you safely to and from Balesin, night or day. Also, those of you who have flown in or out at night have experienced our beautifully lit runway, which is a game changer for Balesin as more and more people want to take advantage of their entire day in Balesin by taking the night flights.
We also found that more and more of our members and guests are flying in and out from Clark. One of our priorities is the upgrading of our own facilities at Clark, the lease for which we signed at the end of 2016. Thus, in about a month’s time, we will have our own Alphaland lounge at Clark. I have always said that Aviation is the “jugular vein” of Balesin, and as you can see from the above, we have given it our best attention, not to mention spending a tidy sum for your traveling convenience to and from the island.
As you know by now, our latest significant project is the acquisition of some 711 hectares in Patnanungan Island (which we have christened Balesin Gateway), only 22 nautical miles from Balesin Island. The land we acquired is almost 1-1/2 times the size of Balesin and while the beaches are not as good as our beaches in Balesin, the land we acquired has a significant major advantage: it has fresh ground water and we do not need to have an elaborate water collection system as we do in Balesin.
An International Airport
We plan to build a 2.5 kilometer runway and obtain an international airport designation so that it can accept flights (even 747s!), directly from major capitals in the region. We have now completed the technical studies for the airport runway and facilities and we will be moving earth around the middle of this year, once we are able to complete the various regulatory approvals required.
Golf Course, Hotel, and Beach Houses
Because we have fresh water on the island, we plan to build an 18-hole championship golf course and a 300-room hotel. With the land area approximately 70% the size of Boracay and about 50% larger than Balesin, it is our intention to build as many as 500 beachfront and golf course home sites. So that we do not end up with a mish-mash of design and we are able to preserve the pristine character of the land (which is mostly coconut plantations), we will design each individual home and build the homes ourselves as we get orders from buyers.It will not be a membership club like Balesin, and the individual home sites can be directly owned by individuals and companies who would like to acquire their own beach houses.
As is denoted by its name (Balesin Gateway), the principal role of the development is to facilitate international members’ access to Balesin by enabling them to avoid the mess at the NAIA in Manila. The real future of Balesin is the distribution of international memberships, and we plan to acquire a Hong Kong/Macao style jetfoil ferry to shuttle Balesin members to and from Balesin Gateway.
This whole project will be an enormous undertaking and will take 3 to 4 years to complete, but we intend to start it this year of 2017.
Baguio Mountain Lodges
Now, a word about our Baguio project. We have been making tremendous strides with this development, and the 2-kilometer principal road (6 meters wide and fully concreted) is now 85% complete.The logs for the log homes are arriving in various container lots during this month, and the Clubhouse and first model unit will be available for your inspection by February (next month).Those of you who have seen the project have been greatly impressed not only by its massive infrastructure, but also by the unbeatable views of the mountains and scent of pine trees (like Baguio used to have). In addition to the existing Benguet pine trees on the 78-hectare property, we have a nursery of pine trees totaling 50,000 seedlings, which grow about a meter a year, and we will plant them as we progress the project.
We have had quite a few visitors so far to view the project but we will be accepting again more visitors when the first structures are up (the Clubhouse and the first model home) in February.
Drug Rehabilitation Center
As many of you know, when PhilWeb was still under my control, I had planned to build a state-of-the-art Drug Rehabilitation Center on a 2.1 hectare property in Atimonan, Quezon. Because the land is actually owned by Alphaland, we plan to proceed with this project as an Alphaland project. Atimonan is only 25 nautical miles from Balesin Island and can be supported by our facilities at Balesin Island, particularly our Balesin Aegle Wellness Center, although we would obviously have to staff it with experts in medical toxicology and other specialists. Atimonan has also the big advantage of being reachable by land from Manila (about 2-1/2 hours).We plan to kickoff this project sometime this year.
Balesin has been operating for five years now and during all these years, we have not increased membership dues, despite the fact that we have built a multitude of facilities that we had never promised to Balesin Island Club members. Among these are more than 120 additional villas (our original commitment was only for 180 villas, now we have 300 villas), The Balesin Royal Villa, Aegle Wellness Center, Rico’s Hideaway, the Organic Farms and aquaculture projects (with our fabulous Balesin Island crabs), the night landing facilities (we are the only private resort with our own night-capable airstrip), and our own two ATR 72-500. All of these have increased our operating costs dramatically and we have no choice but, at this time, to increase monthly dues.
Thus, from the present Php5,000 (plus VAT) with Php2,000 being consumable, we will be increasing the dues beginning this month by an additional Php1,000, to Php6,000 per month (plus VAT). The increase of Php1,000 will be all in consumables. We are also pleased to inform you that the present 5% discount if members pay their dues a year in advance, will be increased to 10%.
As you know, Balesin is a world-class resort and is “unique in the world.” We need to maintain our operations, particularly maintenance activities, to ensure that it remains that way.
I wish all of you a great year in 2017!