P5M more allotted for Lake Sebu's ecotourism sites

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 October) — The provincial government of South Cotabato is investing an additional P5 million for the development of the emerging eco-tourism and adventure sites in the lakeside resort town of Lake Sebu.

The 354-hectare Lake Sebu. Photo courtesy of South Cotabato Provincial Government website.Cesar Sulit Jr., South Cotabato tourism officer, said over the weekend the additional funds would be utilized to fast track the ongoing implementation of the Seven Falls Development Project, a local government-led tourism initiative that promotes the development of Lake Sebu’s famed seven waterfalls.

“We will continue with the infrastructure buildup, improve the site’s operations and develop other potential attractions within the seven waterfalls,” he told MindaNews.

Sulit said the project’s allocation was endorsed earlier this month by the Provincial Development Council as part of the local government’s annual investment plan for 2011.

He said Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr., who earlier adopted the project as among his administration’s priorities in terms of tourism development, has set additional funding through the provincial government’s proposed 2011 budget.

The management of the Seven Falls Development Project, which was launched more than two years ago with an initial funding of some P20 million from the provincial government, was transferred earlier this month from the supervision of the Provincial Environmental Management Office to the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO).

The provincial government launched anew the project on Saturday in simple rites led by Gov. Pingoy and other local officials.

Sulit, who also heads the PPDO’s Arts, Culture, Tourism and Sports Unit, said they earlier launched a study to identify various strategies that would help enhance the ongoing development and operations of the project.

He said among their initial plans is to introduce trekking and wildlife tours as complement to the popular ziplines installed in three of the area’s seven waterfalls.

Sulit said they will develop the trails from waterfalls 1 to 7 to encourage trekking activities, which would be mainly marketed among students and hiking enthusiasts.

He said they will train some local residents to serve as tour guides for the trekking and the wildlife tours.

To improve the operations of the ziplines, Sulit said they will acquire additional equipment to accommodate their growing number of clients, especially during weekends and holidays.

The ziplines connect waterfalls 1 and 5 as well as waterfalls 2 and 5 and features a thrilling drop of about 740 and 400 meters, respectively.

Sulit said the twin ziplines, which accommodate at least 50 persons daily, post an average daily income of P12,500 but such figure usually doubles during weekends and holidays.

“Right now, only the zipline and the entrance fees are generating revenues for the project. We want to further improve its capacity to draw more income by introducing more adventure packages and opening accommodation facilities,” he said.

Sulit said they are currently drawing up plans to construct additional sheds, cottages, conference halls and accommodation facilities to accommodate long-staying visitors as well as host seminars and conferences at the site.

He added that they are set to hire additional personnel to further improve the operations of the project’s management unit. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)