P2.45-B tourism investments eyed for South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, (PNA) — Tourism stakeholders in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces are pushing for the entry of around P2.45 billion worth of “big ticket” development investments in a bid to enhance the area’s tourism potentials.

Nelly Nita Dillera, Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 12 director, said Thursday tourism players in the two provinces have adopted at least nine major tourism projects to anchor its development initiatives for the sector within the next decade.

She said five of the proposed projects are focused on the development of new renewable energy sources while four others involve the establishment of additional tourism facilities and other related infrastructure.

“These are major or big ticket investments that are foreseen to eventually draw more other tourism and development investments to the area,” Dillera said in a media forum.

She said the proposed renewable energy projects comprise a 2.07-megawatt (MW) biomass power plant worth P178.2 million in Norala town and four mini-hydro power plants worth P2.1 billion in the municipalities of T’boli, Tampakan, Banga and Tantangan, all in South Cotabato.

The four mini-hydro power projects, which have a combined capacity 8.56 MW, will be built at the Lam-alo River in T’boli, Tablu River in Tampakan, Banga River in Banga and Matimus Falls in Tantangan, she said.

Dillera said the other projects are the upgrading of ceramic manufacturing technology worth P1 million in Tantangan town and a tourism infrastructure package worth P175 million for the Development Center for Ecology and Leadership Advancement, which is based in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat.

Tourism players have also proposed for the establishment of a wellness center as well as a theme park and a T’boli village at the famed seven falls of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. The required investments for the projects are still being finalized by their proponents.

Dillera said the nine projects will be presented to potential investors at the 1st South Mindanao Tourism Investment Conference (Tourism Icon), which is slated on Oct. 24 to 26 at The Farm Resort in Koronadal City.

The Tourism Icon is a project of the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLADA) and the local governments of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

It is supported by the Canada-backed Local Government Support Program for Local Economic Development (LGSP-LED) of the Department of Interior and Local Government, DOT Region 12 and the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC).

AVLADA is a local government-led environmental body that oversees the management and protection of the Allah Valley landscape, specifically the critical Allah River and its watershed areas.

The alliance, which is a recipient of the Galing Pook Award in 2009, comprises 11 local governments in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat that are traversed by the Allah River.

Alfred Allaga, LGSP-LED advisor, said around 100 businessmen and investors from various parts of the country have already signified to join the Tourism Icon.

He said around 100 national officials, regional and local government leaders are also expected to attend the conference.

Among those who have confirmed their attendance were officials and representatives from the Makati Business Club, Malaysian Consulate in Davao City, Eastern Petroleum and the Aboitiz Group, he said.

Allaga said the investment conference will mainly focus on promoting the area’s proposed “ecotourism highway,” which was considered to cover the municipalities of Lake Sebu, T’boli, Surallah, Norala, Banga and Sto. Nino in South Cotabato and Lambayong, Esperanza, Bagumbayan, Isulan and Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat.

“We will be presenting the nine investment proposals and hold business matching meetings with the potential investors,” he said.

As part of the Tourism Icon’s highlights, Allaga added that they have scheduled visits to the proposed project sites or areas for the interested businessmen and investors.