As POGOs exit, e-commerce, BPOs buoy office space demand during pandemic: Leechiu

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 13 2021 12:31 PM

MANILA - The demand for office space by the Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) and the e-commerce sector have grown in the first quarter despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the first quarter of 2021, the IT-BPM sector posted the largest take-up of office space at 33,000 sqm, followed by the e-commerce sector at 19,000 sqm, data from the Leechiu Property Consultants released Monday showed.

Demand from the e-commerce sector almost "tripled" from 6,000 sqm in the fourth quarter of 2020, it said.

“E-commerce is proving to be a sunshine industry,” said CEO David Leechiu.

Although BPO remains as the biggest driver of office space, large e-commerce firms such as Lazada and Shopee continue to take office and warehouse spaces, Leechiu associate director Mikko Barranda said in a briefing. 

E-commerce has seen a surge, especially in Metro Manila, as locked down Filipinos relied on the internet for essentials and other needs.

"The pandemic has really accelerated the pace, not only on the consumer side, but also on the seller side," Barranda said.

"Many of the sellers that were unable to operate in malls have transitioned to more e-commerce platforms hence we’re seeing the growth in the sector which we’ve never seen in previous years," he added.

Meanwhile, POGOs have remained "silent" in the first quarter, Leechiu said. 

Out of its total 1.7 million sqm footprint, at least 396,000 sqm were vacated from the second quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021, data showed. At least 1.24 million in sqm are still operating on favor of POGOs, it said.

POGOs were suspended in 2020, along with other non-essential businesses, when the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed. But before they could reopen, they were asked to settle tax liabilities. Several companies have exited since then. 

Despite the exit, Leechiu said there could be a resolution between the government and operators this year which could encourage more POGO office demand.

In the residential sector, demand picked up starting in the third quarter with unit sales increasing by 5.7 percent by the first quarter of 2021, associate director Tam Angel said.

The company said sentiments would likely "improve" across all sectors after a huge chunk of the population have been vaccinated around the fourth quarter of 2021.

Aside from the vaccine, the low interest rate, the reduction in corporate tax under the CREATE law and other measures to contain COVID-19 could boost demand in the property sector moving forward, the firm said.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas kept interest rates, used by banks to price loans, at its lowest level of 2 percent. 

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