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Watchdog takes issue with Batam villa ads

LAGOON LIVING: Each of the 64 two-bedroom villas - about the size of a Housing Board executive flat - is built around a lagoon with dolphins on Pulau Manis.


    Jul 22, 2015

    Watchdog takes issue with Batam villa ads

    IN APRIL, property developers behind a Batam villa project splashed print advertisements promising views of Marina Bay Sands and leaping dolphins at residents' doorsteps.

    But now, advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas) has objected to the ads and asked the developers to change them.

    It found three things unacceptable: claiming that landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands are visible from the villa; promising a guaranteed rental of 7 per cent a year; and quoting an anonymous buyer on how wonderful the development is.

    The watchdog reviewed the ads after a Sunday Times report in May on the villas, which cost $758,000 each and are being built around a lagoon of captive dolphins.

    It told The Straits Times that it had informed the developer about the objections last month.

    Asas chairman Tan Sze Wee said that when an advertiser is informed that certain parts of an ad are not acceptable, the advertiser has to stop making the objectionable claims "with immediate effect in all current and future marketing communications".

    The developers behind the dolphin lagoon villas are Singapore-registered firms Funtasy Island Development and Seven Seas FID. The project is located on a cluster of six small islands collectively known as Pulau Manis, 3km off Batam.

    Each of the 64 two-bedroom villas - about the size of a Housing Board executive flat and shaped like a round bamboo hut - is built around a lagoon with dolphins which residents can feed and play with.

    The developers have promised shops and restaurants nearby, and a direct ferry service from Singapore's HarbourFront Cruise and Ferry Terminal.

    The villas, which are slated to be completed by the end of 2018, were launched at the upmarket One Degree 15 Marina on Sentosa in April.

    The villas around the dolphin lagoon are part of a larger development of eight other housing projects on Pulau Manis, with a total of more than 600 units of villas, bungalows and apartments.

    The development sits on land owned by PT Batam Island Marina. The Indonesian company has promised on its website to renew land leases up to 2112.

    Foreigners cannot own land in Indonesia, but can be granted leases to use the land.

    Kelly Huang, spokesman for Funtasy Island, said that the developer "will observe the guidance" given by the advertising watchdog.

    "We will work closely with Asas in the future," she said. "At this point, we have not decided the manner of how the ads will come out."

    A check of Funtasy Island's website last week found that the Marina Bay Sands skyline, 7 per cent annual rent guarantee and ringing endorsement by the anonymous buyer - aspects that Asas objected to - were still prominently featured.

    "Asas has jurisdiction over only local print and broadcast advertisements, but not what the companies do online," said Ku Swee Yong, chief executive of estate agency Century 21.

    "There is nothing stopping a developer from putting information on Facebook or the Internet.

    "This is a key weakness."