MANILA — Government officials and Guam’s private sector partnered to present the first investor briefing in Manila to attract interest from more Philippine business conglomerates.

Gov. Felix P. Camacho led administration and business executives to promote Guam as a good investment site as it recovers from recession and positive trends in military build-up construction and tourism sectors were shared with about 100 participants.

Gerald S.A. Perez administrator of the Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority — who told the gathering he traces his roots to the Philippines — said the island also plans to privatize its commercial seaport operations and water facilities. "We invite your interest in Guam and trust that you will see merit in some of the opportunities. Guam is America but also Asia " Perez told the Philippine business people who attended the Guam Investment Symposium in the Peninsula Manila Hotel on Jan. 27.

Information on qualifying certificates granting a maximum of 75% income tax rebates for up to 20 years and 100% abatement on real property tax up to 10 years was also shared with attendees.

Perez said investors could participate in military construction projects in the next 10 to 15 years worth about $2.5 billion as well as housing educational and tourism infrastructure projects worth about $1 billion.

Military projects would include wharf improvement air force projects a communications facility and an air traffic control tower. Guam’s harbor was also being dredged to make way for bigger ships he said.

The tourism industry of Guam has the potential to recover strongly this year with other popular Asian sites still reeling from the Dec. 26 tsunamis. Perez forecast 1.2 million tourists to visit Guam in 2005 with a strong potential for medical tourism especially from Japan and Korea.

W. Nicholas Captain president of The Captain Co. and Captain Realtors (?check name) said that while the Guam property market remains relatively soft the low prices had attracted investors from other parts of Asia.

In 2003 Indonesian investors acquired the Palace Hotel Guam he said at a price of less than $10 million a 90% discount off the development cost which was reported to be approximately $100 million.

Miguel Luz executive director of the Makati Business Club which is composed of more than 800 chief executive officers representing almost 450 of the leading Philippine companies said the low air fare to Guam and its status as a U.S territory make it a promising investment haven.

"It’s very near the Philippines and the U.S. laws applies. The airfare to Guam has dropped significantly by 50% as Philippine Airlines began flying there four times a week " Luz said. "And it has a relatively small population of about 160 000. Imagine how much space they have."

Attendees also included representatives from Filfresh Inc. Thai Airways International La Paz Holdings & Development Corp. Concepcion Industries Phil-American Life the Asian Institute of Management Power Sector & Liability AB Capital & Investment Shoemart Inc. Equitable PCI Bank Benguet Corp. Equitable Carnetwork Aboitiz Jebsen Bulk Transport Corp. Global Link Advisors Inc. Jaguar Philippines Inc. SM Prime Holdings Banco de Oro Trust International Paper Corp. Security Bank Corp. Cuttingham Topfilt Philippines Zami Steel Argosy Advisers Inc. and Ayala Corp.

Bank of Hawaii Deloitte & Touche LLP Seabridge Inc. and The Captain Co. sponsored the conference.

Approximately 26% of Guam’s population are Filipinos many of whom migrated to escape widespread poverty in their homeland.

Seeing the large Filipino community Chinese-Filipino tycoons led by Lucio Tan Henry Sy and George Ty established businesses in Guam.

Sy’s group controls SM Prime Holdings Inc. the Philippines’ largest mall operator which operates 18 SM shopping centers. In Guam Sy operates the Agana Shopping Center. Tan –who controls Asia’s oldest airline Philippine Airlines has interests in cigarettes brewery and banking. He operates conglomerate Allied Pacific Development Inc. in Guam which owns and operates the Micronesia Mall. (See photos in “Focus” on Page 22). Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (Metrobank) controlled by Ty the Philippines’ largest bank also offers financial services on the island.

The Philippines which is 3- and – 1/2 hours away from Guam previously housed Clark Air Base one of the biggest U.S. military bases outside the United States before they were turned over to the local government in 1992. MBJ