PMAer is Ayala’s point man in the South
CEBU CITY – During an assignment in the mountain villages of the Visayas in the 1980s, a young lieutenant realized what he needed to do to help the country.
Seeing poverty in the countryside, Aniceto “Jun” Bisnar Jr. learned that it was not in the military where he could help more people, but in the business sector.
After switching careers, he later found himself at the helm of a real estate firm that would change the business landscape in Cebu.
Bisnar, 51, was named president of Cebu Holdings Inc. (CHI) and Cebu Property Ventures & Development Corp. (CPVDC) on Jan. 1, 2015. Before that, he was executive vice president of both companies.
He also serves as vice president and chief operating officer of Ayala Land Inc. Visayas-Mindanao Group.
Professional military officer
His first assignment after graduating from the Philippine Military Academy (Sandiwa Class 1985) was at Camp Lapu-Lapu, headquarters of the former Armed Forces Visayas Command (Viscom), now the Central Command, in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.
In the late 1990s, he was back in Cebu to help transform the old airport in Barangay Lahug into an information technology-based economic zone now called Cebu IT Park.
His father-in-law is retired Cebu Customs Collector David S. Odilao, considered the “Father of Sinulog” for institutionalizing the festival by organizing the first Sinulog parade in 1980.
Bisnar came from humble beginnings.
His father, a native of Capoocan town in Leyte, stowed away on a ship to Manila where he worked his way from grade school to college.
Aniceto Sr. then joined the Philippine Air Force Flying School and graduated in 1960. At Fernando Air Base in Lipa City, Batangas, Aniceto Sr. met his wife, Amparo, a nurse.
After graduating high school in De La Salle Lipa in Batangas, Bisnar entered the PMA, the country’s premier military school.
“I wanted to help my parents. We were seven children and I was the eldest. I didn’t want to be a burden to my parents,” he told the Inquirer.
“It was also my dream to be a graduate of PMA because my father was in the military. I also wanted to be a professional military officer.”
Of the 24,000 applicants, Bisnar was among the 400 young plebes admitted to the PMA.
Bisnar was at the top 5 percent of his class when he graduated.
He joined the Philippine Army after graduation and was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu which was a hotbed of insurgency in the Visayas.
During his tour of duty, Bisnar saw how poor the people were in the rural and mountain areas.
“It was easy for the insurgents to recruit at that time because the people in the mountains were so poor. They had nothing to eat, and no health or social services. There was no government presence except for the military,” he said.
Bisnar realized that only by addressing poverty would the insurgency problem go away. And this could be done by bringing development to the countryside.
This realization led him to business and economics.
In 1989, he took his master’s degree in Business Management at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Makati City. There he met his wife, who was also a student. The couple later had three children.
Life in the private sector
After nine years in the military, he left the service and applied for work in the private sector.
One company offered him a higher pay and a car, but he went to work with Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) in 1994.
“I was not after the money,” he explained. “I wanted to join a highly professional company that has a very good reputation and has contributed much to the country’s economic progress.”
He was hired as operations manager of Nuvali, Ayala’s 1,860-hectare township in Santa Rosa, Laguna. The planning and development took years as Nuvali is twice the size of Makati City.
Now, Nuvali has become a sprawling eco-city with residential, commercial, recreational and institutional facilities. It is considered the “Makati of the South.”
Bisnar also started and headed other large scale integrated developments of Ayala like the 400-hectare Ayala Westgrove Heights and 500-hectare Ayala Greenfield Estates and its Golf and Country Club.
He also headed the commercial operations of Fort Bonifacio Development Corp. (FBDC), developer of Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City.
FBDC, which used to be owned by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and Bonifacio Land Corp., had the mandate to develop BGC.
Before Ayala Land took over, FBDC was saddled with a large debt and other problems.
But Bisnar and his team were able to turn FBDC around and transformed BGC into a major business district in Metro Manila. Under his watch, BGC became the natural expansion area of the Makati central business district.
“We had to overhaul everything, from the organization, masterplan, infrastructure, up to our marketing plans,” Bisnar said when asked how he and his team were able to turn FBDC around. “FBDC had to fire expensive foreign consultants hired by previous owners, close noncritical subsidiaries, and brought in an all-Filipino team. I have a firm belief in the talent and creativity of Filipinos.”
Last January, Ayala brought Bisnar back to Cebu, to head CHI, which owns Cebu Business Park–a 50-hectare commercial and financial hub which used to be a golf course before the Ayala company developed it in 1988. Its subsidiary, CPVDC, developed the Cebu IT Park.
Both business parks have provided employment for 68,977 people working in 270 multinational and corporate locators, and 1,001 business enterprises.
In the next five years, CHI and CPVDC intend to pour in about P30 billion worth of investments in Cebu, which is more than the P39.2 billion already put in by ALI-CHI and CPVDC since it started operating 27 years ago.
Part of the investment would go to the three new developments in Cebu.
CHI joins Gaisano-owned Taft Property Venture to develop a 13-hectare property on Mactan Island into a mixed-use leisure and resort community of choice.
The other is a 15-hectare mixed-use business estate in Barangay Subangdaku in Mandaue City, which is in partnership with Ayala Land Inc. and AboitizLand Inc.
CHI and CPVDC are also redeveloping the Central Block of Cebu IT Park into a mixed-use retail, hotel and office complex.
As COO of the ALI Visayas-Mindanao Group, he also wants to expand the company’s businesses in the South to help the government generate more employment opportunities for Filipinos.
As CHI and CPVDC head, Bisnar plans to improve Cebu Business Park and Cebu IT Park to get more investors, as well as to complete the three projects.
He also wants to establish a nursery and raise at least 65,000 seedlings as part of Ayala Land’s commitment to the environment.
Some of the seedlings will be planted at the Kan-Irag Nature Park, a watershed and nature park in the mountain village of Pung-ol Sibungay in Cebu City, which was developed by Ayala and other nongovernment organizations.
Bisnar wants to enhance the 65-hectares nature park and open it to the public.
At 51, retirement is far from Bisnar’s mind. After all, not everyone is given an opportunity to build a “city” in the metropolis.
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