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POGOs remain major driver of Philippine office property market

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The POGO industry accounted for the highest demand in office properties not only in Metro Manila but also in Clark in Pampanga and Cebu. KAI SENDER/PIXABAY

POGOs remain major driver of Philippine office property market

After a temporary blip caused by China’s crackdown in the third quarter, the online gaming industry has bounced as the biggest driver of the Philippine office property market, which is on track to end at record levels this year.

Domestic office take-up this year hit a record high of 1.7 million square metres, inclusive of pre-commitments, with the Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) industry accounting for the highest demand not only in Metro Manila but also in Clark in Pampanga and Cebu, Leechiu Property Consultants CEO David Leechiu said in a property briefing on Monday.

Demand from POGOs alone surged to 738,000sqm or about 44 per cent of 1.37 million square metres transacted so far – excluding pre-commitments. Last year, POGOs accounted for 443,000sqm or 28 per cent of total office property take-up.

Asked whether Makati’s decision not to host more POGOs could impact on the sector, Leechiu said this would not likely curb the sector’s growth as there was ample space in other local government units to accommodate spillover demand.

The Bay Area continued to account for the lion’s share of new POGO occupiers this year at 38 per cent, followed by Makati at 17 per cent.

Other growing POGO hosts are Alabang, Cavite and Quezon City, which each accounted for eight per cent of total space take-up this year.

Pampanga, Ortigas, Cebu, Laguna and Taguig also bagged some of the office property deals this year.

To date, POGO occupiers account for about 12 per cent of about 14 million square metres of total office space in the country. Metro Manila accounts for 86 per cent of the supply.

On the other hand, demand from the business process outsourcing (BPO) decreased by 14 per cent year-on-year to 573,000sqm “due to the lack of readily available office supply and a wait-and-see attitude”.

In Metro Manila alone, demand from POGOs doubled from 296,000sqm last year to 608,000sqm this year. BPO take-up was flat at around 428,000sqm “owing to the scarcity of offices spaces with tax incentives”.

He noted that BPO transactions were brisk during the first half of the year but significantly dampened after the Philippine Economic Zone Authority stopped processing new economic zones in Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, POGO transactions peaked in the second quarter and dipped in the third quarter.

This was after China – the main market of most POGOs that have sprouted in the metropolis and likewise the main source of Mandarin-speaking migrant labour that runs these entities – called on the Philippines to ban these entities.

Apart from all forms of gambling being illegal in the mainland, China has raised concerns on money laundering, the working condition of its citizens in proposed POGO hubs as well as predicate crimes associated with the POGO network such as human trafficking, kidnapping and even killings.

President Rodrigo Duterte has since then ruled out China’s call to ban POGOs but his administration has been going after illegal POGO operators as well as those which do not pay proper taxes.

Owing to the growth of BPOs, local industries likewise exhibited increased demand for office space with flexible work spaces, real estate developers and banking institutions accounting for 25 per cent of demand or 336,000sqm in Metro Manila and 22 per cent for the entire country.

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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