The 5-day International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank conference is going to be the most expensive project ever undertaken by the Philippine government.
The 5-day International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank conference is going to be the most expensive project ever undertaken by the Philippine government. When the final figures are in, the cost of staging this financial convention could well be over US$400 million.
SYNOPSIS: The week-long conference, which ended on Friday (8 October), was Manila's bid to become Asia's leading convention centre. It was a showcase project, designed to put Manila firmly on the map.
The new Philippine International Convention Centre (PICC), where the IMF-World Bank meeting was held had cost the government an estimated US$133 million.
But a further US$270 million was poured into the building of 15 new first-class hotels, not all of which were finished in time for the conference. The construction of these hotels -- which began in 1974 -- has been heavily financed by two semi-government agencies, through the Central Bank of the Philippines. In this construction boom -- the largest since the Second World War -- 12,000 rooms have been added to manila's hotel capacity.
The government hopes that these hotels will go a long way towards meeting tourist needs in the years ahead. Whereas the week-long IMF-World Bank conference is expected to bring in US$1.5 million to the Philippine economy. But the big question for Manila will come after the October conference. To help fill all these hotel rooms, the Philippine government will have to attract a million visitors. And that number is a long way away from the half million tourists expected for 1976.
But that is not the only question being asked. Across the other side of Manila, in Tondo, many Filipinos are wondering just who will benefit from this construction boom. The US$400 million investment in hotels and a convention centre are after all for tourists and visitors -- not residents of the Philippines. Tondo is the poorest district in urban Manila. It also has the worst crime rate. And more than one resident is thinking that the money could be better spent to improve their own living conditions.
A few weeks before the IMF conference, Manila embarked on a massive clean-up campaign. And a major part of that campaign involved the relocation of several hundred ???ilies to settlements in Carmona and Dasmarinas -- well away from the eyes of the visiting delegates. Squatter-families were also evicted from Manila to Marikina in the beautification of Manila programme. While the country's capital may be sanitary and pleasing to the visitors eye, these families at Marikina have been living in shacks and squalor. The cost of patting Manila on the map has not just been expensive to the government. It has also taken its toll from the average Filipino.