Plan to turn Chinatown into BPO hub gains ground

By Max V. de Leon, BusinessMirror

Posted at Jul 03 2012 10:12 AM | Updated as of Jul 03 2012 08:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The plan to convert the Chinatown area in downtown Manila into a business-process outsourcing (BPO) hub continues to progress, with about 30 buildings identified as being ready for retrofitting.

An industry source told the BusinessMirror that the buildings, mostly along Escolta Street in Binondo, are currently unoccupied and can be made readily available to developers that will convert them to BPO facilities.

“The buildings will not be altered too much so they will still retain their pre-war era appeal. We want it to be a fusion of the old and the new, the former Manila business center becoming the home of the IT-enabled service providers,” the official told the BusinessMirror.

The plan to convert the Binondo area into a BPO hub, the source said, is being pursued by the city government of Manila through former Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta, now the city’s tourism officer.

She is in talks with property owners in Chinatown, and the Business Processing Association of the Philippines.

Jojo Uligan, executive director of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines, said the conversion of the Binondo area into a BPO hub makes sense because of its proximity to universities and colleges in the University Belt.

Also, he said the vacant buildings in the area can readily provide the additional square meters of office spaces that the industry requires to sustain its expansion.

The industry is now concluding a study on the growth path of the call-center industry, which includes the size of office spaces that it will need in the future.

“There are so many universities there so that will address manpower already. But, of course, there is still a lot of factors that we need to consider, including security,” Uligan said.

Security, he said, is one of the major considerations for contact centers, naturally because they operate mostly at night.

Currently, he said Teleserv is the only call-center firm that has decided to locate in Manila.