South Cotabato eyes management body for gov’t economic ventures

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 December) – South Cotabato officials are planning to establish a special unit that would manage and lead the development of several facilities of the provincial government into viable business ventures.

Board member Ervin Luntao, chair of the provincial board’s ways and means committee, said they have drawn up a proposal for the creation of an economic enterprises unit under the office of Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. by next year to allow a more focused and strategic management of local government-owned and operated facilities in the area.

He specifically cited the South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center, Productivity and Technology Center (Protech) and South Cotabato Sports Complex, which were all located in Koronadal City, as well as the popular zip line in Lake Sebu town.

“These facilities, when properly managed and developed, have tremendous potentials in terms of generating substantial income for the provincial government,” Luntao said.

Citing studies made by his committee, the official said only two of the four facilities – Lake Sebu zipline and South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center – have been generating revenues for the local government but were still considered limited.

Luntao said the airconditioned South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center draws its income from hosting events like major concerts and from rental fees on commercial spaces within the building.

The zipline, which is among the main attractions of the famed seven waterfalls of Lake Sebu, serves an average of around 300 to 400 visitors per day and has recorded a steady rise in income since it was first introduced three years ago, he said.

Luntao said the South Cotabato Sports Complex, which features a rubberized track and an Olympic-standard swimming pool, has been operating under local government subsidy due to its high maintenance costs.

He said the swimming pool uses up a considerable amount of chlorine that its income could barely cover for it.

On the other hand, he said the Protech Center has not been generating any income since the provincial government usually offers the free use of the facility for the events and gathering that it hosts such as festivals, trade fairs, seminars, cultural shows, among others.

Through the proposed economic enterprises office, Luntao said they are pushing for a centralized management of the four facilities, which are presently run by different departments of the local government.

“We want to place the management of these facilities under one office. The designated manager will operate them as business ventures and not as government facilities,” he said.

He said the economic enterprises unit will spearhead the formulation of development strategies for the four facilities and implement appropriate policies and measures set by the amended Provincial Revenue Code.

Earlier this year, the provincial board amended the revenue code to introduce some policy reforms and update some of its provisions, specifically the rates and charges on the use of provincial government-owned and operated facilities.

Based on the amended revenue code, among the facilities covered by the rate increases were facilities under Lake Sebu’s Seven Falls Eco-Tourism Project, which includes the zipline, as well as the Protech Center, the South Cotabato Sports Complex and the South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center.

From the previous P250 per ride, the local government raised the charges for the popular zipline in Lake Sebu to P300 on weekdays and P400 during weekends and holidays.

The entrance fees to the South Cotabato Sports Complex increased to P10 from the previous P5 while the use of the complex’s swimming pool was raised from P10 to P20. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)