SouthCot, S. Kudarat to showcase tourism potentials

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 July)– Tourism stakeholders in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces are set to hold an investment conference as they make a big push for the development of the area’s emerging tourism sites into world-class attractions.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Friday the preparatory works are now underway for the area’s first-ever tourism investment conference, which is mainly aimed at attracting major tourism ventures to various prime ecotourism resources within the two provinces.

Dubbed the South Mindanao Tourism Investment Conference (Tourism Icon), she said the initiative is part of ongoing efforts to fully develop the existing ecotourism sites in areas covered by the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLADA).

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.

Fuentes said the investment conference will 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’re looking at drawing possible investments on ecotourism, tourism facilities and services, transportation and communication, and local tourism competitiveness enhancement through public-private sector partnership,” the governor said.

The Tourism Icon, which is slated on Oct. 23 to 25, was formally launched in Koronadal City on Thursday.

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

Randi Alampay, LGSP-LED program manager, said the upcoming investment conference is a component of a support program being implemented by the agency in the AVLADA area.

“Our objective is to bring in more investments into AVLADA to help generate more livelihood and employment opportunities to local residents,” he said in a press conference.

Alampay said among the basic investment opportunities in the area are accommodation facilities like hotels and resorts, transportation services, and dedicated tour packages.

The area also needs “tourism road networks,” power generation facilities and other related support infrastructure, he added.

Alampay said the agency will assist the local government units (LGUs) and tourism stakeholders within the AVLADA area in preparing the investment projects that will be marketed later on to delegates who will be joining the conference.

He said LGSP-LED and MinBC will work with the proponent-LGUs “to help them realize those investments.”

They will further build the capability of the LGUs in implementing and sustaining possible investment projects in their respective areas.

Benjamin Garcia, AVLADA’s private sector representative, said they expect to create more awareness regarding tourism investment potentials and opportunities in the area through the investment conference.

“We will invite people who matter when it comes to tourism investments. These are consultants and major operators that have vast experiences in the industry, both locally and abroad,” he said.

He said among the initial venture groups that they’re planning to invite are the operators of the Bellevue hotels, Microtel hotels and other hotel and resort chains in the country. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)