It all started with a leisure trip for gold in Manila for South Korean real-estate magnate Lee Shin-Kun, and now, he owns Donggwang Clark Corp. (DCC) which is considered one of South Korea’s largest property developers. The company is about half into the biggest foreign property project in the country, if not Southeast Asia, called Clark Sunvalley Resorts and Country Club, a $400-million (P20 billion) family-oriented complex inside a 309-hectate lot in the former US military air base Clarkfield. Lee said in 2000, he visited Manila to play golf and on that same year, 17 years ago he already saw the potential of the country and the opportunities in it.
He ceded that volatile politics is indeed problem in the country as efforts started then to oust former President Joseph Estrada. But Lee saw the future in the economy, and made a decision to invest in the country.
He said he recognized the country’s potential as he looked into its history as one of the richest in Asia in the 1940s.
Moreover, Koreans have appreciated the Philippines coming to the aid of South Korea during the civil war in the 1950s when the Philippines sent troops, he said.
The Philippines also then supported South Korea financially.
Lee placed the current jobs in the project at 1,500 but when it is completed, some 5,000 employees are expected. He said there are also 500 caddies in the golf course.
DCC was recently granted a Provisional License by gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to build and operate a casino gaming facility within the resort.
DCC is a subsidiary of South Korea’s Sun Valley Group, known for its state-of-the-art golf courses, hotels, water theme parks, housing and other property development-related projects.
The project currently boasts of two world-class 18-hole golf courses which are the 18-hole Sun and Valley Course and the 18-hole Clark Course and will soon be home to the 5-star Hilton Clark Hotel that is targeted to start operations late next year.
The Clark project has an average altitude of 370 meters above sea level and with magnificent views of Pampanga’s mountain ranges, which makes Lee cite nature as the key difference that sets it apart from other similar local projects.
Positive about Philippine economy
Lee said he finds distinct strengths of the Philippine economy which are its huge potential for growth with a gross domestic product (GDP) growing at an average of seven percent a year, and a young population that will provide the needed labor force to fuel further growth.
Economic officials refer to the country’s demographic sweetspot in which the majority of the population are within the working age which sets the country apart from most of its neighbors which are grappling with an ageing population, thus depriving them of economic manpower.
In terms of finding the right person for a particular job, Lee is confident that he can best get such individuals in the country.
The Hilton Clark Hotel will feature various leisure and entertainment facilities such as a luxury spa, a fitness gym, an Olympic-size pool and a convention center.
The proposed casino resort will also feature a nature park with jogging and biking trails, an indoor water park and duty-free retail outlets. Total project gross floor area will be well over 50,000 square meters.
Lee said aside from the serviced residence hotel, the project will operate private villas and multiple tower condominiums sitting atop a hill for a stunning 360-degree view of the two golf courses.
“We’re very happy for the opportunity to develop another leisure facility in the Philippines. We believe that it can further boost the country’s tourism industry and encourage international high-rollers to come and experience the world-class gaming we will offer,” Lee said.
“A big responsibility now lies on our shoulders with our latest project but it challenges us to come up with a leisure facility which does not only provide first-class service but something that can contribute significantly to Philippine economy,” Lee added.
Also part of the project is DCC’s Clark Ode County, a 10-storey office, commercial and residential development.
It has a shopping mall, swimming pool, gym & spa. Its office and residential units are equipped with home automation, a centralized gas system, 169 CCTV cameras, free parking slots and a security service that operates 24/7.
Clark Sunvalley Resort include a 36-hole golf course, a clubhouse, a water park, spa, gymnasium, eco park, business center, international school, medical clinic and drug store, five star hotel, casino, a 500-unit villa and a shopping arcade.
Lee said the main difference compared to other leisure developments is that it integrates nature and its accessibility for foreign visitors, being a mere seven minutes away from the airport.
Clarkfield, unlike Manila, has little vehicular traffic.
He said, for instance, it is not acceptable that Clark which is 86 kilometers away from Manila takes more than one hours to travel because of traffic.
DCC has been engaged in the development of Clark since 2009. Lee said that he invited Hilton Hotel to join the project because of his desire to develop the whole of Clark as travelers’ destination.
Nonetheless, Lee said Clark Airport should be expanded to accommodate more international flights. At the moment, the airport only has eight international direct flights.
The hotel and casino open at the same time through management contract and not a franchise, Lee said adding that the target opening will be in September to December next year.
We are hoping to attract people from Asia, companies inside the freeport zone, residential facilities, Lee added.
Lee is optimistic about the speed in the economic development of Clark saying that four years ago there were 720 companies compared to now when 850 companies are operating. “There is a great need from companies for spaces to stay,” he said.
A key component of the project is the Monterrace Heights that consists of 510 condominium units to complement the world-class resort that is expected to become a new landmark in Clarkfield.
DCC said it intends to showcase through “Monterrace Heights” a new housing culture in the Philippines.
The Monterrace Heights project composed of 510 units, 240 in the first phase and 270 units in the second phase.
Located at an altitude of 350 meters above sea level, the first phase of Monterrace Heights will be located in a place which is two to three degrees cooler in temperate on average compared with other locations in the country including Metro Manila and commands a great view of surrounding magnificent mountains and nature.
Facing Hilton Hotel, the second phase of the project has amenities, facilities and a park. Condominiums initially offered for sale are comprised of 90 two-bedroom units, 120 three-bedroom units and 30 four-bedroom units.
Interior design for Monterrace Heights is undertaken by globally famous HBA of the US which designed not only numerous internationally famous hotels such as Hilton, Hyatt, Shangri-La, and Marriott but also high-end condominiums in global metropolises including New York City, London, Singapore and Shanghai.
Senior Director Norman Agleron responsible for the design of Monterrace Heights said “the biggest challenge in this project is how to create a modern living space harmonized with this place of majestic scenic beauty with 360-degree panoramic view.” As of now, a show house of Monterrace Heights is under construction in Hilton Clark SunValley Resort and slated to be complete around August 2017.
The residents of Monterrace Heights will be able to enjoy freely amenities and facilities of the resort including the 36-hole golf course already operational, and other project components being worked on now Hilton Hotel, the wellness center, the shopping mall, the indoor water park, etc.
It will also have the Singapore School Clark (campus of the prestigious Singapore International School) scheduled to open in August 2018.
Singapore School Clark will follow Singaporean curriculum from kindergarten to middle school courses, and adopts IGCSE of Cambridge in high school courses and international AS/A level and IB diploma programs of Cambridge in Preliminary university courses.
The project will target European, US, Singaporean, Hong Kong, Malaysian, Chinese markets in their sales efforts as investors concentrated on Manila start to come to Clark.
The Sun Valley Group of Korea does business in the fields of golf course, hotel, water theme park, housing and other real estate developments. Currently, it owns and operates Sorak Sun Valley Country Club, Dongwon Sun Valley Country Club, IlJuk Sun Valley Country Club, and Yeoju Hot Spring in Korea, and Yabe Sun Valley Country Club and Higo Sun Valley Country Club in Japan. To date, the group has completed more than 10 large-scale housing related projects.