Real estate boom hit world's oldest Chinatown

Updated: 2012-11-10 15:24


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The Philippines' recent economic strides are driving an unprecedented growth in its property sector, and the construction boom has hit Manila's Chinatown. A rising Chinese mainland population may be driving this growth.

There's a new it-spot in Manila's Chinatown and no, it's not another one of your friendly neighborhood noodle house; it's a brand-spanking new mall. Ten years ago, no one would have believed it, but something's changing in Binondo, the world's very first Chinatown.

Real estate executive, Wilson Sy, showed me a model of a 47-story residential tower that's about to break ground. His company, Megaworld, has invested over $170 million in developing properties in Binondo.

Wilson Sy, Asst. vice-president of Megaworld Corp, said, "The real estate industry is going up, that's why this is the right time that we can develop Chinatown."

Not that it ever lost its status as a center for trade and commerce, but there's new money flowing, and it's partly being driven by the area's changing demographics.

"While it is true that the local Chinese would prefer to live outside of Chinatown, but our friends from China would prefer to live here in old Chinatown," he said.

Each year thousands of Chinese mainlanders come to the Philippines to do business, and more and more end up settling in the country. In Megaworld's first Chinatown residential project alone, majority of more than 1,000 families are from China.

There's no denying the rapidly changing landscape of Manila's Chinatown. The world's oldest Chinatown is finally getting its fair share of the country's economic progress. But it's also become a delicate balancing act of preserving the old and welcoming new developments.

"Binondo land is one of the most expensive real estate in our country. So that becomes a problem for heritage. They basically see heritage as an old building that really doesn't matter in the scheme of things," Ivan Henares, vice-president of Heritage Conservation Society, said.

Megaworld says they are building a new Chinatown without having to destroy the old one, but Binondo's land is a testament of how much of the old is being replaced by the new.

Back on the ground, a centuries-old church stands beside a modern hotel, proving maybe that there is room for the old and new to co-exist.