Razon: Manila more ‘cool, interesting’ than HK, Singapore

Natashya Gutierrez

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Razon: Manila more ‘cool, interesting’ than HK, Singapore
Enrique Razon, who heads Solaire Resort and Casino in the Philippines, foresees gaming in all countries in Asia in the future, but touts his country for its 'cool factor'

SINGAPORE – “I come from Manila, so when I come to Singapore, it still feels like I’m in a hospital. Although it is perfect and clean.”

Frank and candid, the president and chairman of International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI), Enrique Razon, elicited laughter from the crowd at the Fobes Global CEO Conference here on Wednesday, October 29, wherein he touted the Philippines as Asia’s “cool” destination.

Speaking at a forum on destinations in the making before a room of CEOs and entrepreneurs from all over the world, Razon said Manila may be far behind in infrastructure compared to other cities in the region, but it has a lot to offer.

“Manila is starting from a different level, especially compared to smaller countries like Hong Kong and Singapore, which are far more developed in infrastructure. We’re just starting with the basics. We need a new airport. We still need roads,” he said. “But I think we have the cool factor, we’re a lot more interesting.”

The country’s 3rd richest man also pointed out that despite the lack of infrastructure, “we been receiving [tourists].”

“People will come. We just have to improve the experience, the arrival experience,” he said.

Razon, who also heads Solaire Resort and Casino and built the country’s first integrated resort in Manila, predicted the Philippines will be “very competitive for the international players” when it comes to gaming because of the city’s unique personality.

Asked whether he foresees it being the next Macau, Razon responded, “Manila is going to be the next Manila.”

“It’s a different market. We have a big local market that Macau doesn’t have. In the US 20 years ago, there were only two states with gaming – New Jersey and Nevada. Now they have 48,” he said.

“And I foresee with other governments, when they see the taxes collected from gaming, they will probably have gaming in all of the countries in Asia at some point, which is, to me, the trend.”

“Everybody benefits from these investments,” he added before joking: “I’d rather be the only one really to tell you the truth, but a couple more is acceptable.”

Government helpful

While the Philippines, he said, is on its way up, he acknowledged other challenges the country still has to address.

Like Thailand and Indonesia, the Philippines has the “problem of having one major city which is really congested.” He said this is something that will continue to be a problem, but that things are getting better by the day, partly due to the government.

“We have a high population growth rate and a big influx of immigrants from other parts of the country into the city. So we still need to develop and finance more of the basic infrastructure before we can get to the other side. And the government is addressing that now,” he said.

Razon said “there are many more projects left to be done” and that the country has “lots of financial needs.” He remained optimistic, however, praising the government for its slow albeit determined efforts.

“It has taken a very long time, but the administration now is one the most serious in getting things done. They’re also very cautious, so we’re really far behind in what we should be doing,” he said.

“When you build a flyover, a railway system, an airport, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years to complete…but it’s improving daily.” – Rappler.com

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.