Boat builder Angelo Olondriz envisions the Philippines as the “Mediterranean of Asia”, given the country’s stunning islands and breathtaking marine environment.
What is missing, he says, is the infrastructure that will host yachts and other leisure boats to bring tourists out to the sea or to idyllic island resorts.
“We have all the natural infrastructure in place. We got the islands. We just need to learn how to move people around. And to do that, we have to build from the ground up this [leisure boating] industry,” Olondriz, president of Subic-based Headsail Inc., tells journalists onboard a Lagoon Catamaran yacht in Manila Bay.
Olondriz is the president of Headsail, which manufactures about 25 hammerhead boats a year. He is also the organizer of the 9th Sea-Ex Philippine Boat Show & Nautical Lifestyle Expo on March 3 to 5 at the SMX Convention Center in the Mall of Asia complex, Pasay City.
The expo, dubbed as the biggest marine show in the country, will bring together key personalities and brands involved in the manufacture and distribution of yachts, sail boats, boating accessories, water sports equipment, summer apparel and resort getaways under one roof.
“It is because that I was building boats that I started the boat show,” says Olondriz, who believes that the Philippines can become both a hub of boat manufacturing and destination of yachts and leisure boats in Asia.
“Yes, we can. It is capital intensive, but if people see more demand, more builders will build more boats. We are hoping that they start focusing on the pleasure boat industry. We don’t have to sell boats only to Filipinos,” he says.
Olondriz says the leisure boat industry covers vessels from two-meter kayak to 45 meter yacht. “It is not only for the rich. In the car industry, you have Rolls Royce, Ferrari then you have Cherry. You have the whole segments of cars for every type of buyer. The same is true for the boating industry. You have something for everybody. From a simple kayak, which is a part of our industry, it is unfair to label it for the rich,” he says.
Olondriz, however, confirms that a thriving maritime and coastal tourism industry will attract rich foreign boat owners from Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asian countries. He says some rich yacht owners spend up to half a million dollars just to replenish their stock.
“Can you imagine that money going to Subic, Cebu or Palawan, that money going into the local economy for buying produce? That’s the circulation of income that we want to happen all around the Philippines,” he says.
“If you go to Thailand, many of the yachts are owned by foreigners living in Hong Kong. They just leave it in Thailand. We can become like that. All the people in Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia can leave their boats in the Philippines and come here to enjoy it. That’s what we are trying to attract,” he says.
Olondriz, who has a 30-year experience in the Philippine maritime and boating industry and a member of the Subic Bay Yacht Club, says while the country has 7,100 islands, the commercial side of the maritime industry in the country is minuscule compared to its neighbors.
“We need industries to bring people to resorts, to get people around. What is happening in this industry is that everybody is doing his own thing, but not getting anywhere. In most countries, they do use a boat show to solidify the industry, bring everybody under one roof. That’s basically what we are trying to do with the holding of the Philippine Boat Show & Nautical Lifestyle Expo,” he says.
“We want the Philippines to be the Mediterranean of Asia. We want to become the playgrounds not only for Asians, but also Europeans. We have the islands, we have the English-speaking community, we have the friendliest people in Asia,” says Olondriz.
Christopher Madrigal of National Coast Watch Council agrees that “maritime tourism is an area of the national economy that has a lot of potential.”
“It is time that there is a constant dialog between the government and stakeholders. We support our local boat builders. It would generate more income. It would generate more small businesses. It would generate income for people in the coastal areas, which are among the poorest of the poor,” says Madrigal.
Olondriz says at present, the leisure boating industry in the Philippines is very small, with annual contribution of “a hundred million at most.”
“Boat manufacturing is a segment of the industry that has never been realized. Funny, because we have the fifth biggest ship building facility in the Philippines which is Hanjin,” he says.
Olondriz is optimistic that as the Philippine economy grows, demand for leisure boats will also pick up. This way, property developers will find it viable to build marinas all over the country. He quotes architect Jun Palafox as saying that “waterways is the forefront of development in any country.”
Madrigal of the National Coast Watch Council supports this claim. “If you examine all the development policies of the country, most of it is terrestrial-based. We don’t realize that water is a bigger part of the Philippines, and that is the potential waiting to happen,” he says.
Olondriz says it is understandable for a landlocked country to have a small boating industry. “But for a country with 7,100 islands and 36,289 kilometers of coastline, no. How do you get around? We should have a number of marinas here, with a number of yachts, and even people like us with no boats can go charter boats,” he says.
He says the 9th Philippine Boat Show & Nautical Lifestyle aims to raise awareness on the potential of the leisure boating industry. The government through the Maritime Industry Authority, the National Coast Watch Council and the Tourism and Promotions Board are joining the campaign.
“Right now, we are working with them to update the rules and regulations that govern the marine industry. The last time this was revised was back in 1987. We are also working to get the leisure boating industry legitimized. These developments will pave the way for significant growth in the years to come,” says Olondriz.
Among the local boat builders that are expected to join the show are Trevally Boats, Teamnonino, Australasia Marine Alliance Corp., Advanced Composite Systems-Hammerhead Boats and local boat distributors carrying internationally known brands, such as Azimut Yachts, Beneteau, Lagoon, Princess, Chaparral Boats, Sunseeker, NuMarine, Galeon and Corsair Marine.