SouthCot eyes P100-M to develop Lake Sebu for ecotourism

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the plan will involve the development of the town's two natural springs, three majestic lakes, seven towering waterfalls and other natural attractions in the area. "We're looking at an investment of around P100 million. It's an ambitious, long-term endeavor but we're slowly getting there," Fuentes said. Earlier this year, the local government commenced the first phase of the project through an initial funding of at least P4 million from its own coffers.

That investment paved the way for the opening of an access road that goes straight from the heart of the town to Dongon Falls 1 and 2, which form part of  the area's "Magnificent Seven Falls."

The seven waterfalls are part of a mountain river that flows down to the lowland areas. The second waterfall stands around 200 feet, the tallest among the seven falls. Fuentes said at least P2 million were spent by the provincial government for the opening of the area's access roads while another P2 was allocated for the construction of a bridge, cottages, canopy walk with railings, water system and comfort room for Falls 2.

She said they are looking another investment of at least P36 million for the second phase of the project, which would involve the development of a campsite, riverside swimming pool, picnic area and view decks for Falls 1 and 2.

Fuentes said the entire development of the seven waterfalls would likely require about P100 million.

Hernani Bagnati, supervising carpenter of the Provincial Engineering Office, said the first phase of the project is now almost complete and they are only working on some finishing touches such as the installation of the resort's electricity.

He said the project, which started last March 18, was targeted for completion during the 41st Foundation Anniversary celebration of the province and the 8th T'nalak Festival.

"By that time, we will be able to fully open the parking area and the road going to the resort area," he told reporters during an earlier visit to the site.

The resort area is now accessible to vehicles but management is requiring the use of the parking area, which requires a five to 10-minute walk.

The resort area is being managed by the Dongon family, who owns an area adjacent to Falls 1 and, and the provincial government.

They have initially set a P10 entrance fee for adults and P5 for children. At least 75 percent of the income from the fees goes to the provincial government while the remaining 25 percent is collected by the Dongon family.

The provincial government's development initiative for the seven waterfalls was an offshoot of a partnership between the local governments of the area and the government of New Zealand, which invested on building the capacity of local residents and leaders on the management of the area's environs.

Aside from the New Zealand, the area was also included as among pilot beneficiaries of the replication program of the European Union-funded Upland Development Programme. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)