GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 20 June) – The national government has approved the release of around P120 million for the development of a circumferential road network covering the ecotourism areas of Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato.
Outgoing South Cotabato (2nd District) Rep. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said her office was formally notified by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on Wednesday that the appropriation for the project has been approved and the preparatory processes are ongoing for its implementation.
She said the project’s funding and implementation was jointly endorsed by the DPWH and the Department of Tourism (DOT).
Fuentes, who will assume as provincial governor next month, said the DPWH Region 12 has been assigned as main implementer of the road project.
“The road network will mainly connect our ecotourism sites in Lake Sebu and facilitate easy access to the area,” she said in a radio interview.
The circumferential road network is part of the P791-million worth of “tourism” road projects in the province that was endorsed earlier this year by the provincial development council.
In Lake Sebu, the projects include the 5.25-km circumferential road and national secondary road junction of the Surallah-Lake Sebu-Maitum-Bensidon-Bacdulong road; and the 4.68-km circumferential road, national secondary road junction of Surallah-Lake Sebu-Maitum-Seloton-Seven Falls-Purok Rosas-Lahit road.
The council said these road projects are seen to further boost the development and promotion of Lake Sebu’s three famed lakes, seven waterfalls and spring resources.
Fuentes said the road network was among the tourism-related projects submitted by her office to the DPWH and other national government agencies for funding and implementation.
She said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) earlier approved an additional appropriation of P30 million for the province and they’re looking at utilizing such fund for the development of a tourism center in Barangay Linan in Tupi town.
Barangay Linan has become a top tourist destination in the province in the last three years due to the presence of the famed tarsiers.
The municipal government of Tupi earlier declared the area as a tarsier sanctuary.
In February, TIEZA commenced with the implementation of the P12.48-million Lake Lahit Development Project in Lake Sebu town through the Batangas-based Lourel Design and Construction Company.
The Lake Lahit project involves the construction of various tourism facilities around the 24-hectare lake, specifically a “restaurant boulevard” in one of its scenic strips, Fuentes said.
She said her office has allocated around P6 million from the district’s priority development assistance funds for 2013 as augmentation for the project.
Fuentes earlier said that a portion of such allocation would be utilized for the acquisition of boats and required equipment for family boating adventures at the lake.
The Lake Lahit project is part of the ongoing tourism initiatives being undertaken by the DOT and the provincial government of South Cotabato in Lake Sebu town, which is famous for its three scenic natural lakes – Lahit, Seloton (48 hectares) and Sebu (354 hectares).
Aside from the three lakes, the town hosts at least seven waterfalls, several natural springs and preserved cultural communities of the town’s T’boli tribe.
In June 2012, the Regional Development Council of Region 12 endorsed the concreting of the Poblacion Lake Sebu-Seloton-Seven Falls-Lake Lahit road as part of a three-year “convergence program on enhancing tourism access” of the DOT and the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The road project was seen to enhance the implementation in the area of the Community-Based Ecotourism Development Project of the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
The BIMP-EAGA had chosen Lake Sebu as pilot area for the Asian Development Bank-funded project, which will be implemented starting this year and until 2016 based on the sub-regional grouping’s project implementation blueprint that was adopted in April last year.