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On the path to sustainability, resiliency

(This speech was delivered by Yu, president and CEO of Empire East Land Holdings Inc., during the company’s annual stockholders’ meeting on July 15.)

Yu

The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic here in the Philippines and across the globe has undeniably made us socially and physically distant from each other, but this has bonded us more than ever to unite as one solid community in this fight against an invisible enemy.

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This health crisis has crippled numerous businesses in different industries, but we are grateful and proud to let you know that your company is on “business as usual.” Perhaps, not like the “usual” we used to know, not the “normal” we used to do, but your company is strong and thriving.

I would like to commend my fellow workers at Empire East for continuously exhibiting their passion and commitment to get your company moving and growing. Thanks as well to our in-house sales partners and accredited brokers who embraced the new normal, and through online selling alone, with all our showrooms shut down during the first two months of quarantine, have astoundingly delivered P1.4 billion worth of reservation sales.

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We are one with you in aiming to curb this pandemic. While no company is an exemption to this health crisis as the virus continues to linger globally, it was during this time that Empire East discovered once again the strength of its foundation that brought us sailing steadfastly into a new era of doing real estate business.

With your unceasing support for the company and for believing in our values of innovation, flexibility, community and family welfare, we will triumphantly surpass this difficult period.In fact, what makes us more confident that we can easily recover from this crisis are the economic indicators that are in our favor. The posted 5.9 percent GDP growth rate last year is a positive figure for our country’s economic performance.

The planned 37-tower Empire East Highland City

Residential real estate prices recorded a 10.4 percent year-on-year growth from 2018 to 2019, more significantly at 29.1 percent growth rate in the third quarter last year. This is an opportune time for the investor’s market to look at this good indicator. Even though real estate property values may possibly decline by the end of 2020 as an effect of this current pandemic, industry experts still project a 1.7 percent annual average growth rate up to 2022.

Vacancy rates for condominiums are also lowering, positively indicating that many of the residential properties like what your company is developing are being occupied.

Likewise, the banks have decreased interest rates in lending that will result in more construction activities and a robust demand in real estate products in the coming years. Also, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, residential real estate loans recorded a double-digit growth of 13.1 percent, which equates to a stable demand for residential developments.

During the first few weeks of the lockdown, I had the opportunity to visit some of our residential developments to personally check the situation of our homeowners—and what I witnessed in each project is a “community in action” where the residents and the property management teams have responded with a strong spirit of solidarity as the Filipino “bayanihan” became more evident.

Our community frontliners including security guards and maintenance personnel have chosen to respond in courage with continued service despite the threat of operations shutdown. The admirable initiatives of our residents to help their neighbors in need and support their frontliners have been a testament that Empire East not only developed structures for homes, but also created unparalleled communities where compassionate people live.

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Social distancing was observed in Empire East micro-cities.

In our premier TOD or transit-oriented development at the Makati central business district, the four-tower San Lorenzo Place, residents benefited tremendously from having their own supermarket and food establishments which remained open at its own San Lorenzo Place Mall.

Now that select public transportation resumed to operate under the general community quarantine, residents can easily ride the MRT Line 3 via Magallanes Station that is physically linked to (the) project, as well as the CityLink point-to-point buses with its own station within the development. San Lorenzo Place is currently 100 percent sold out and has been completely turned over.

Having your own shopping mall, a retail arcade or a commercial strip within your community has proven to be exceptionally advantageous during a health crisis like this.

At the 37-tower micro-city The Cambridge Village in Pasig-Cainta, more than 5,200 households enjoyed a self-sustaining neighborhood without the need for them to get out and go far to buy their daily essentials. Same benefits were experienced by approximately 2,900 families at another micro-city, the 25-tower California Garden Square in Mandaluyong City, and by 6,200 families in Empire East’s flagship township development, Laguna Bel-Air in Santa Rosa City.

Another TOD that has remarkably thrived amidst this pandemic is Pioneer Woodlands in Mandaluyong City, a six-tower high-rise condominium complex connected to MRT-3 Boni Avenue Station.

The Paddington Place along Shaw Boulevard

Appreciating the efforts of all security and maintenance staff for their round-the-clock service, residents initiated a drive to provide these frontliners with food supply, toiletries and other basic needs. Eco-trikes from the city’s LGU regularly arrive at Pioneer Woodlands to deliver fresh produce and other commodities which added more convenience to residents and minimize their outdoor exposure. Today, this community is 92 percent sold out with four occupied towers and is ready to welcome new residents in the two more towers nearing completion.

On top of strict social distance implementation, temporary closure of amenities, and constant disinfection and sanitation of common areas such as lobbies, elevators and hallways, the property administration of Little Baguio Terraces in San Juan City, as well as The Rochester and Kasara Urban Resort Residences, both in Pasig City, partnered with the local government to set-up “mobile palengke” in their communities.

Through this, residents need not to go out of the vicinity to go to markets or groceries because they can simply line up conveniently close to home. This was enjoyed by the residents of the four towers of the completed and sold out Little Baguio Terraces, six out of seven towers of The Rochester, and two out of six towers of Kasara. The remaining towers of The Rochester and Kasara are in full-swing construction while the projects are 97 percent and 92 percent taken up, respectively.

2019 was indeed another banner year for your Company. On top of delivering 4 Billion Pesos (PHP 4,008,907,955) worth of booked sales, which was a 14% increase from the previous year that amounted to 3.5 Billion Pesos (PHP 3,512,542,938), we recorded a 15% increase in our net profit from PHP 535,156,520 in 2018 to PHP 615,563,311 in 2019. We have likewise completed the construction of seven (7) residential towers across various developments, such as The Rochester (Palmridge and Hillcrest Towers), Pioneer Woodlands (Tower 4), Kasara Urban Resort Residences (Tower 2), Little Baguio Terraces (Tower 2), and The Cambridge Village (Clusters 32 and 33), with a total of 2,130 fresh condominium units. To date, your Company holds an aggregate land bank of 427 hectares with a projected 5.1 Billion Pesos worth of inventories.

Most significantly, 2019 marked the 25th year of Empire East in the real estate industry—a milestone worth celebrating. As our way to rejoice this momentous achievement, instead of festive celebrations, we decided to fulfill our commitment in building unparalleled communities by launching twenty-five (25) corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities initiated and funded by our employees and sales partners. But because of our people’s collaborative efforts and willingness to help more communities and organizations, we have exceeded the expected target and even reached 37 CSR activities by the end of that year.

A mobile palengke provided residents with the essentials during the quarantine.

The Company has driven its efforts towards causes that need close attention—health, education, youth and elderly, family, and environment. For 2019 alone, the Empire East Cares CSR arm has produced amazing results that helped over 4,000 people, built 41 houses for displaced families, planted 700 trees, assisted five schools, and supported 17 organizations and foundations. It is through this channel that we will continue to extend help those affected by the current health crisis.

The fight against COVID-19 may be far from over, but we will definitely overcome this. And just like when we pioneered breakthrough lifestyle concepts such as the live-work-play township, micro-city developments, loft-type communities, TOD, and urban resorts, we look forward to a promising future where Empire East continues to cater to the needs and aspirations of the Filipino homeowners. The city living solutions we will provide tomorrow, we anticipate and prepare for today. Your company’s direction is clear. We will take the path leading to more residential developments that embody and promote sustainability and crisis resiliency.

In 2019, Empire East committed together with its affiliates under the Alliance Global Group to meet specific end-goals by 2030 based on the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. We shall be laying down plans and platforms that will aim to (1) build sustainable cities and communities, (2) to rely on renewable energy, (3) to lower carbon footprint, (4) create more jobs, and (5) empower women in the workplace. With these in mind, your Company is driven to continue the creation of sustainable communities that improve the urban lifestyles of aspiring homeowners in Metro Manila.

The two-tower Mango Tree Residences in San Juan City, currently 59% sold out and has commenced full-swing construction in 2019, will showcase a high-rise and low-density community filled with “green” features where residents can breathe and feel close to nature in the middle of the bustling metropolis. On the other hand, the four-tower The Paddington Place along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City, which has shown brisk sales at 72% and now pre-selling on the final tower, will let its future dwellers experience premium mobility through a TOD lifestyle and for having its own bi-level community mall complete with basic daily needs.

But the boldest step of your company to take on the sustainable path is the unveiling of its grandest township yet—the 37-tower Empire East Highland City along Felix Avenue at the convergence of Pasig City and Cainta, Rizal. Complete with a spacious green park, a shopping mall, a parish church, a five-star recreation club, wide roads and walkways, and more greeneries and open spaces, the future residents of Empire East Highland City will experience a redefined and upgraded urban lifestyle centered on long-term sustainability and a community that can withstand crises and calamities.

Once again, thank you for being part of our growth, for responding to the times with us, and for straining forward to what lies ahead. Together, we pray for endurance, healing, strength and courage to press on for the benefit of the communities we serve today and in the future.

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TAGS: Anthony Charlemagne Yu, Empire East Land Holdings Inc.
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