CEO Corner: Trying big shoes on for size

Delfin C. Wenceslao, managing director, Aseana Holdings Inc.

Delfin C. Wenceslao, managing
director, Aseana Holdings Inc.

It’s never easy filling other people’s shoes, especially when those who wore them had been widely recognized and credited by their peers in the industries to which they belonged. This was the situation Delfin “Buds” C. Wenceslao found himself in, shortly after graduating from college. At the time, his father who is also his namesake, was already reclaiming and developing a huge parcel of land in Paranaque City (Metro Manila), along with partners, under his own company DM Wenceslao and Associates. This 204-hectare development is now known as Aseana City, where Buds is managing director of DM Wenceslao’s real-estate arm, Aseana Holdings Inc.

Wenceslao explains the history of this huge project, which involved the reclamation of land by his father’s company along the shoreline of Manila Bay in 1989. One of the biggest undertakings of the Philippine government, it was part of the Manila Cavite-Coastal and Reclamation Project. When the reclamation was finished in the mid 1990s, he says, half of the reclaimed land went to the government, while half went to the private sector. The government then sold its 50-percent stake to the state-run Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp., which gave out four casino franchises located in what is now known as Pagcor Entertainment City.

According to Aseana’s official website, the whole project is being undertaken by the Philippine Reclamation Authority or PRA (formerly Philippine Estates Authority) for the government, and has been upgraded as a priority undertaking through the Manila Bay Boulevard 2000 Project. In turn, the PRA partnered with R-1 Consortium through the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme, to reclaim and develop approximately 204 hectares of land along Manila Bay. The consortium involved partnerships between Philippine, Belgian and Japanese corporations.

Wenceslao says the 204-hectare development is only about 20 percent occupied at present. But current structures there, including two new sprawling casinos Solaire and City of Dreams, plus Aseana’s own BPO buildings, as well as DFA Passport Plaza and retail warehouse giant S&R, can already give people a tangible vision of how the whole development would look like, once it is completed.

According to him, Aseana Holdings is overseeing all major aspects of the development, including master planning, feasibility studies and developing, leasing, marketing of the whole area. The young executive is excited over near- to medium-term prospects, especially because of a surge in tourism-related infrastructure developments simultaneously happening around the Manila Bay area. He says “because of the current tourism boom that’s happening right now with the Pagcor Entertainment City, and the surrounding Mall of Asia, it [Aseana City] is primed for a big jump in capital values.” At the same time, he points to the country’s major real-estate players having all indicated their desire to be part of the development as well.

Newest lessee Ayala Land Inc. has secured a long-term lease for a nine-hectare property in Aseana City for a mixed-use project, including the building of what will be the biggest mall in the area.

Wenceslao says he is fortunate to be at the helm of this major undertaking at a time when the Philippine economy is one of the fastest-growing in Asia. He believes this will fast-track all their plans and achieve their long-term goals at a faster rate. Having first entered the family business in 2003, Wenceslao says he has seen their company’s challenges and how his father had steered the company to growth and resiliency. He mentions that he took a short sabbatical in 2007 for his master’s degree and returned in 2009 to become Aseana Holding’s managing director.

When asked what his own goals were immediately after he was given the reins othe family-owned company, Wenceslao replies, “Being in a family business, there’s no real fixation on titles. You just do what needs to be done.” He says it was also a good time to be back around the time that he did “because at the time, there was a financial crisis globally, but the Philippines, because it was very conservative, didn’t have that problem.” At present, he adds that he enjoys doing what he does, so much so that it eats up almost 90 percent of his time. It’s not a healthy work-life balance, he concedes, but he says he does try to give quality time to his young family as well. What is equally important, according to him, is to work hard to grow the company more, and make Aseana City a First World city, without it being a copy of some other city abroad. Then, Wenceslao says, he can be certain that it will make not only his father proud but the country as well.


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