The past year saw the COVID-19 pandemic bringing an unparalleled challenge which cut across all sectors on a global scale. Most, if not all, countries experienced major setbacks such as closure of businesses, loss of jobs and more tragically, loss of lives. However, like all challenges, this too will come to pass. The Philippines is no stranger to natural calamities and has always shown resilience in the face of adversity.

The pandemic was a rude awakening as it made us realize how we took a lot of the simple and basic things for granted. On a personal level, simple hand washing and practicing proper sanitation and hygiene was often neglected. On the level of buildings and similar facilities, proper ventilation, adequate open spaces and proper upkeeping practices were more of a “good to have” instead of a “must have”. Getting these things and practices done will be a part of the basic routine as we transition to the “new normal”.

Working from home, to some extent, will be part of the “new normal” in this period of pandemic. The requirement to practice “social distancing” has limited the number of people in certain locations at one time, especially in the office. Some employees were required to physically report to the office everyday. Others were required to report for work at regular intervals (e.g. one week in the office then one week at home, etc.). While some were to virtually report for work (i.e. work from home, work remotely outside the office).

While working from home may prove effective for some industries, working in the office would still be indispensable to others. Changes in the workplace need to be introduced and applied to address the requirement to practice “social distancing”. Being able to work efficiently in the office while adhering to the strict guidelines in place would require physical changes to the office itself and for the people working in them to adapt to these changes. Humans by nature are “social animals”. The need to physically interact in a physical environment, such as the office, will still remain in the foreseeable future.

Opportunities have also risen over the past year. The lockdown experienced during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) highlighted the need to diversify to key locations outside of Metro Manila. The economy and the general public suffered severely as most of the activity which was centered in Metro Manila, were halted during the lockdown. In addition, Metro Manila was one of the areas which remained under ECQ the longest which made the situation worse. Diversifying to locations outside of Metro Manila will spread these activities and lessen the occurrences of disruptions on these whether by forces of nature (e.g. typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, pandemic) or man-made events (e.g. protests, riots, demonstrations).

.Other opportunities have been around for quite some time but the need for them has been accelerated because of increased demand for some of the activities that they are able to service. Such has been the case with industrial and logistics property as well as data centers with the expansion of online transactions. Transacting online has decreased physical contact significantly and has been effective in reducing the transmission of the virus.

The REIT has been one of the more recent opportunities that have risen and is currently showing success with the performance of the AREIT, the lone REIT in the market today. Other developers may soon follow suit and hopefully the capital to be generated may be used fund new developments and jumpstart the real estate market and other related industries.

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