SouthCot, S. Kudarat tourism stakeholders go into high gear

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 23 Oct) – Around 200 tourism stakeholders and prospective investors will gather in nearby Koronadal City on Thursday for a three-day conference that is aimed at luring more investments into the thriving tourism industry of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Alfred Allaga, advisor of the Local Government Support Program for Local Economic Development (LGSP-LED), said at least 100 tourism players, investors and business leaders as well as 100 other local and national government officials have confirmed to join the 1st South Mindanao Tourism Investment Conference (Tourism Icon) that is slated Oct. 24 to 26 at The Farm Resort in Koronadal.

The conference, which was organized by the local governments of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, is supported by the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC), Department of Tourism (DOT) and the LGSP-LED of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Through the investment conference, Allaga said they are aiming to attract major investments for the proposed “ecotourism highway” within the two provinces.

He said the project area covers 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.

The area comprise the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLADA), 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.

AVLADA, which is supported by the LGSP-LED’s eco-cultural tourism project, is a recipient of the Galing Pook Award in 2009.

Allaga said the Tourism Icon will be highlighted by the presentation to prospective investors of nine “big ticket” projects that were earlier identified by the area’s tourism stakeholders.

The proposed investments, which were worth around P2.45 billion, are focused on the development of new renewable energy sources and the establishment of additional tourism facilities and other related infrastructure.

The proposed renewable energy projects comprise a 2.07-megawatt (MW) biomass power plant worth P178.2 million in Norala town and four mini-hydro power plants worth P2.1 billion in the municipalities of T’boli, Tampakan, Banga and Tantangan, all in South Cotabato.

The four mini-hydro power projects, which have a combined capacity 8.56 MW, will be built at the Lam-alo River in T’boli, Tablu River in Tampakan, Banga River in Banga and Matimus Falls in Tantangan.

The other projects are the upgrading of ceramic manufacturing technology worth P1 million in Tantangan town; a tourism infrastructure package worth P175 million for the Development Center for Ecology and Leadership Advancement, which is based in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat; and a wellness center, theme park and a T’boli village at the famed seven falls in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

“If there are new investments on tourism and supporting tourism, there can be more jobs available and livelihood opportunities in the area will be expanded,” Allaga said.

Nelly Nita Dillera, DOT Region 12 director, said the nine projects were selected out of around 30 investment portfolios that were proposed by local stakeholders.

“We shortlisted it to consider only the big ticket projects and since we can also tap local investors for the other ventures,” she said.

Tourism Icon organizers has hired the services of a consultant involved in the evaluation of projects under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority for the preparation of the investment proposals of the nine projects.

Silverio Tandog, AVLADA executive director, said among those who have confirmed their attendance were officials and representatives from the Makati Business Club, Malaysian Consulate in Davao City, Eastern Petroleum and the Aboitiz Group,

He said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas will be sending their representatives.

Tandog said that during the conference, Makati Business Club Executive Director Peter Perfecto will discuss the preferences and requirements of local investors in pouring in their investments.

Gerry Constantino, vice president for operations of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, will tackle the same on the part of international investors.

Secretary Luwalhati Antonino of the Mindanao Development Authority will keynote the conference’s closing program.

Tandog added that they have also set business matching activities and visits to the proposed project sites or areas for the interested businessmen and investors.