Balesin lifts luxury a notch higher

02/17/2013 | By: Jimmy Calapati, Malaya Business Insight

Balesin is probably the biggest and most expensive single-resort development in the country to date. Consider the specs: tens of billions of peso to develop a 500-hectare island off Quezon province facing the Pacific Ocean; seven internationally-themed villas; 5-star accommodation in all its 292 villas, each big enough to accommodate up to 4 guests; two brand new Cessna Grand Caravans and two British Aerospace Jetstream 32 to transport the members; and world-class amenities which include a spa, sports center that has both indoor and outdoor tennis and basketball courts, horseback trails, a full gym and an aqua center.

And the island is environmentally sustainable, too.

Alphaland’s Balesin Island Club is a members-only island resort set to be fully-completed by the first quarter of this year.

Masterplanned by EcoPlan of Miami, Florida, Balesin Island Club was developed to be the most environmentally-sustainable membership club. “Sustainability was the starting point of our entire process, not an afterthought,” Wilhelm Bolton, general manager, told Malaya Business Insight.

The island has its own water harvest facility that is capable of recycling up to 80 percent of used water in the island, a reverse osmosis plant, on-site eco friendly transportation, organic farming, and alternative sources of energy that reduce the amount of waste and ensure sustainable development on this beauty of an island – without scrimping on luxurious, top-notch facilities.

“We spent a lot of time and effort finding the best solutions from around the world, for water, sewerage, electricity, and machinery, that could not only withstand the beach environment, but also achieve objectives such as harvesting 100 to 150 million liters of rainwater for our water system,” Bolton said.

He added that they developed a novel way of building an international-grade runway using geotextiles, a method which saved them from having to ship in tens of thousands of tons of base course material, thus saving much fuel and expense.

“We also do not employ septic tanks for sewerage. We instead set up nine new-generation sewage treatment plants that biologically digest our sewage. Outflow water is treated and used for landscaping,” Bolton said.

Bolton stressed that the vision of Alphaland’s chairman, Roberto Ongpin, was to build elegant, comfortable villages around the island so that the members would not need to build a beach house.

Ongpin was the original visionary behind Tagaytay Highlands, which completely transformed the property market in the late 90s. Around 2009, he saw an unmet need for a fully sustainable, fully masterplanned, and professionally operated island destination.

As Alphaland’s flagship project, Balesin Island Club is a multi-billion peso development with continuous investment still coming in as construction is still ongoing.

“Alphaland targets 100 percent completion of the principal infrastructure and construction by the end of Q1 2013. Adjustments and additional decoration will continue, it is a never-ending process,” Bolton said.

He explained that they had seven months to completely study the island, its flora and fauna, as well as its geology and hydrography.

“From that point, it took us 21 months to complete the total development of five villages (Balesin, Bali, Mykonos, Phuket, and St. Tropez). By the end of this quarter, we will complete and open to our members the remaining two villages, Costa del Sol and Toscana. This 24-month construction timeline is a first considering that we built it all in the exotic Eastern side of the Philippines,” Bolton said.

After building the first 5 villas in August of 2011, some of the members wanted to be the first on the island, so they welcomed them in during those initial months.

The actual soft opening of the club was in June 2012. By April 2013, there will be 292 villas and suites, in 7 villages, spread throughout the 500 hectares of Balesin.

“Members get 14 free villa nights a year. Members may go to the island on our scheduled flights, or they may use their own airplanes. This vision has now become a reality, as you have seen,” Bolton said.

For a membership fee starting at P3 million, members will be given 14 free nights in any of the seven themed villages inspired by world-class beach destinations namely: Balesin, Bali, St. Tropez, Toscana, Mykonos, Costa Del Sol, and Phuket.

“A great piece of beach property is probably about P5-7 million. Your dream beach house can set you back another P7-15 million. In Balesin, you get your own 500 hectare island and 292 villas and suites to experience with your family without the hassles of maintaining a beach house,” Bolton stressed.

“Our members from the Philippines and abroad are starting to bring their families and friends. Most of our new members have come from these first guests. They fall in love with the island as well, and want to experience it with their families,” he added.

Bolton also said that they are actually starting to sell the island to the international market.

Balesin Island Club is for our privileged members, wherever they may be from. The beauty of our island is we have our own runway, with four airplanes available for our members. Balesin is easily accessible from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, etc. and once our airport is certified as an international aerodrome, the foreign membership will grow. Balesin is already effectively a luxury destination on its own,” Bolton said.

Balesin island Club will also be supported by the planned world-class marina in Manila Bay called the Alphaland Marina Club.

“We are about to open The City Club, a lifestyle club, by the end of Q1 2013 and The Makati Place, a mixed-use residential complex, as well as our flagship office complex, Alphaland Tower, all on Ayala Avenue,” Bolton added.

Bolton said that they are very happy with the overall feedback they have received to date.

“Our members have expressed special delight for our tours, villa accommodations, dining facilities, and club services and amenities. Of course, we have things we need to improve, and by involving our members in this process, we are ensuring we give them what they really want, not just what we think they want,” Bolton said.

“The place is not just only an extraordinary vacation experience but is also an excellent investment, where nature, pleasure, and business are equal,” he added.

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