Sarangani to set up first tourism enterprise zone

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 18 Sept) – The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Region 12 is pushing for the development of a portion of the coastal municipality of Glan in Sarangani Province as the region’s first tourism enterprise zone (TEZ).

Nelly Nita Dillera, DOT Region 12 director, said they have identified an area covering around 79 hectares in Glan as a viable site for the proposed TEZ, which is being pushed to complement with the continuing developments along the area’s popular white sand beaches.

She said they recently “enrolled” the area with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) for its possible declaration as a TEZ.

TIEZA, which is an attached agency of the DOT, was tasked to designate, regulate and supervise established TEZs as provided for by Republic Act 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009.

“TIEZA representatives will be visiting the area next week to evaluate the site and determine whether it qualifies for the program,” she said in a media forum.

Dillera said the proposed TEZ mainly covers the town center of Glan and several neighboring communities.

The area presently includes a number of private estates but their owners already signified their support to the plan based on initial discussions with Glan Mayor Victor James Yap, she said.

In a briefer, TIEZA said a TEZ “should be at least five hectares and sufficient in size, such that it may be further utilized for bringing in new investments in tourism establishments and services.”

TEZs are classified based on their particular purpose, specifically for cultural heritage, health and wellness, eco-tourism, general leisure and mixed-used zones, it said.

Glan has emerged as a popular tourist destination in the last several years due to the pristine white sand beaches in the coastal village of Gumasa.

The strip, which is touted as the “Boracay of the South,” plays host every third week of May to the two-day Sarangani Bay Festival that has been dubbed as “Mindanao’s biggest beach party.”

Aside from its beaches, Glan boasts of a rich history and culture that dates back about a century ago. The town will celebrate its centennial founding anniversary next year.

For the upcoming evaluation, Dillera said the proposed TEZ in Glan will be assessed by TIEZA based on a set of requirements, among them the established road networks, accessibility to the airports and land transportation routes as well as its development plan.

“The site has existing road networks and is very much accessible to the General Santos airport. The development plan will be a big challenge but we’re already addressing it and we’re coming up with a progressive development strategy for the area,” she said.

If eventually declared as a TEZ, Dillera said they will immediately push for the entry of investments into the site’s basic utilities like water and electricity.

She said these investments may come in through government or institutional grants and joint private-public ventures.

“Once the basic utilities are in place, we can then start promoting the area for big investments like hotels and other tourism facilities and enterprises,” Dillera said.

Under the TEZ program, she said potential locators or investors may avail of a range of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for their projects or ventures.

To avail of the incentives, TIEZA said a minimum investment of US$ 5million, exclusive of land acquisition costs, is required for the TEZ ventures.

The agency said enterprises within TEZs may be granted fiscal incentives like a six-year income tax holiday; duty-free importation of capital equipment and goods consumed in the course of services rendered; and tax credits on all locally sourced goods and services.

The non-fiscal incentives include employment of foreign nationals in executive, supervisory, technical or advisory positions; special investor resident visas for foreigners who will be hired by locators; and privileges in connection with foreign currency transactions, it said.

TIEZA has also laid out incentives for tourism enterprises outside TEZs.