Jeffrey Ng: The man who’s expanding Metro Manila

Cathay Land president Jeffrey T. Ng has always seen the future of Metro Manila — that it will grow further south to encompass Silang, Cavite and Sta. Rosa, Laguna: “The working class’ commute every day is two hours going to work and another two going home. We want to help cut that back not just for the factory workers but also for BPO employees, and to decongest Metro Manila.”

When Cathay Land president Jeffrey T. Ng was a young boy, his parents — Cathay Land chair Olivia Ng and the late philanthropist Ambassador John KC Ng — taught him that “a peso saved is a peso earned.”

Jeffrey learned to be thrifty and hardworking early and along the way he picked up more life lessons on his own which he’s now imparting to his three children with wife Vivian Ng.

One of those he learned as he was building Cathay Land’s diversified holdings in real estate, property development and steel manufacturing is that once you have a vision about the future, you do not let it go no matter what. “I have learned to plan carefully, to expand the business whatever the prevailing economic situation. I always begin with the end in mind and plan to achieve it step by step.”

Another is this: “To be happy, you have to have meaning in your life, then you have to set your goals. It’s the journey that’s important, not just the end. When you have passion for excellence, you put your heart and soul in it, and that’s what makes life rewarding, meaningful and fulfilling.”

For his father, the culmination of the Ambassador’s lifetime of philanthropy was donating 10 hectares of land to Chiang Kai Shek College, which is set to open for school year 2020. Jeffrey says, “He wanted to give back to the community as part of his legacy, so he worked absolutely hard on donating 10 hectares to his alma mater. With Chiang Kai Shek College operating a campus in the south, parents will be assured of quality education for their children. Our entire family hopes that those from the south will appreciate my father’s efforts now and in the future.”

The school is located in Jeffrey’s “baby” — the 500-hectare South Forbes Golf City as part of Cathay Land’s 1,500-hectare landholdings in Cavite and Laguna. He had this vision of a city in the 1990s when he began land-banking in Silang, Cavite with 250 hectares originally.

He knew, back when Metro Manila traffic was still bearable and the population still manageable in 1992, that in a decade or two Metro Manila would need to expand, perhaps not in terms of geographical or administrative boundaries, but certainly in terms of urban sprawl.

“We don’t have a huge land bank in Metro Manila, so we started buying relatively inexpensive land with the plan to build these to new cities — and they now include our pioneering project South Forbes Golf City, Acienda and Mallorca City. All are located in the up-and-coming town of Silang, Cavite. We are confident that our future investors, corporate locators and homeowners will warm up to the good quality of life that our various projects in Silang offer.”

Trained in UP’s School of Economics where he graduated cum laude, Jeffrey saw the future as we couldn’t really comprehend it then — that a huge number of people would choose to live in the suburbs outside the 17 cities that formally make up Metro Manila rather than live in congested cities, or that these developments built by the private sector would be self-contained smaller “cities.”

Jeffrey Ng and Freeport Retail Ltd. (UK) co-founder and director Chris Milliken at the opening of Acienda Designer Outlet in Silang, Cavite, last October

“We want to provide the best quality of life possible for our people and I feel that the area I chose to invest in has the best climate being so close to Tagaytay with fresh air blowing from Taal Lake and abundant greeneries. And that it has the best infrastructure that’s now built and will be further developed. For most residents, South Forbes is their primary home, not just a second or weekend home.

“The urban sprawl of Metro Manila will ultimately reach Sta. Rosa, Silang and Tagaytay City in the next few years with the ongoing construction of CALAX (Cavite-Laguna Expressway), the planned CTBEX (Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expressway) and the LRT (Light Rail Transit) to Cavite. This is the next growth area and we are quite bullish on our projects in Silang: from South Forbes Golf City to Acienda Designer Outlet, as well as Mallorca City. Once these two new expressways are finished, Tagaytay City will only be 30 minutes from the Mall of Asia/Entertainment City in Pasay City and the international airport.

“People have asked me why we are investing so much in the future of Silang and my answer is leadership. We believe in the good people of the municipality and in the strong leadership under the provincial government with the Remullas and the municipal government under former Mayor Clarito Poblete and now his daughter, the current Mayor Emilia Poblete, and her sister, incoming Mayor Corie Poblete.”

As president of UPSEAA, Jeffrey hands over an award to Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran. Joining them are the late Bangko Sentral Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. (left) and former Prime Minister Cesar Virata (fourth from left).

Avoracious reader of history, biographies and geopolitics, Jeffrey says the trade conflict between the US and China has resulted in opportunities for the Philippines. Chinese and foreign-owned factories want to avoid the new tariffs the US is imposing on China-made goods and are looking for alternative places.

He adds there is no more space in Metro Manila to put up, say, a garments or food factory or warehousing facility, and even if you find land that’s available for sale, the prices are just too high and the workers will never be able to afford to live anywhere near their factories. On the other hand, industrial parks in Cavite at around P8,000 sqm. are suitable for businesses looking to expand.

The Zen-inspired Tokyo Mansions Clubhouse at South Forbes Golf City

“The working class’ commute every day is two hours going to work and another two going home. We want to help cut that back and decongest Metro Manila not just for the factory workers but also for BPO employees, so we’re not only putting up residential communities and vertical condominiums, but also offices and industrial parks. We are aiming to put all these business centers and office buildings in Cavite where all these highways and interchanges will be. Basically, the workforce is there — it’s just a matter of bringing the work and corporate locators to them. Once this happens, they will have a better quality of life because their commute will be much shorter and they can spend more time with their loved ones. The cost of living in Laguna and Cavite is much lower than in Bonifacio Global City and Makati, so that will also help their individual families.”

As chairman of the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association Inc. (SHDA), he is painfully aware of the 6 million housing backlog in the country and says SHDA’s mandate is to encourage government and “member developers to continue to launch projects at affordable price points and payment schemes.”

Cathay Land has also developed strategic partnerships for other property ventures, such as with the Del Rosario family of PHINMA to run and operate Microtel Hotel in South Forbes Golf City and Freeport Retail from the UK for Acienda Designer Outlet, which opened on Oct. 26 last year and is expected to draw thousands of shoppers daily who are looking for discounts from brand names and a shopping experience that’s literally out of the (mall) box.

The 18-hole South Forbes Golf Club has received many awards over the past few years.

Another partner is the Ayala Group to develop the Westborough Town Centre, which will serve residents and locators of South Forbes Golf City and residents of Ayala Westgrove Heights.

“We felt that they have a strong track record, so we also decided to give Ayala Land Premier and Alveo Land 200 hectares to speed up the development of our land bank via new residential projects. They are doing quite well, as I expected. We are looking to forge even more strategic alliances for the development of our 1,500 hectares of properties in Silang and Cavite,” he says.

Chateaux de Parix Clubhouse at South Forbes Golf City

As if he didn’t have too much on his plate, Jeffrey is also president of the UP School of Economics Alumni Association (UPSEAA). “I really enjoyed my stint at UP. I’m a proud iskolar ng bayan, what I am today is a fruit of my UP education. So together with my fellow alumni, I try as much as possible to give back to students, alumni and faculty — even to our men’s basketball team.”

He says that UPSEAA provides scholarships and stipends to undergraduates and masteral candidates and they will soon be putting up a mentorship program.

In more ways than one, Jeffrey Ng is truly his father’s son.

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