DOT positioning Lake Lahit as another tourism magnet in South Cotabato

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 19 October)– The Department of Tourism (DOT) has allocated an initial P12.5 million for the development of Lake Lahit in Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato as an alternative ecotourism destination.

South Cotabato (Second District) Rep. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the funds would mainly be utilized for the establishment of various tourism facilities around the 24-hectare Lake Lahit, which is one of the town’s three scenic lakes.

“The initial plan was to develop a restaurant boulevard in one of its scenic lakeside strips,” she said.

Fuentes said that DOT officials informed her that the project’s contract has already been awarded to the winning bidder and that its program of work was already completed.

She said they’re pushing for the project’s initial works to begin this month to facilitate its targeted completion by early 2013.

Fuentes said the DOT had included the project as among its priority tourism initiatives for the area this year but its implementation was delayed due to transactions involving the acquisition of a road within the area.

As a counterpart, she said the municipal government of Lake Sebu was earlier required by DOT to provide for the project’s site.

Aside from the DOT funding, Fuentes allocated an additional P2.5 million for the project from her office’s priority development assistance funds for 2013.

She said such allocation would be utilized for the acquisition of boats and required equipment for family boating adventures at the lake.

“We will deploy the boats once the DOT-funded facilities are completed,” she said.

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, the Regional Development Council of Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region 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 last April.

Based on the BIMP-EAGA’s ecotourism roadmap, the sub-region will mainly pursue programs that will “highlight the important role of ecotourism as a tool for poverty alleviation.”

It will develop “a kind of ecotourism that involves the local grassroots communities.”

The ADB assistance for the project will involve capacity-building activities for the local communities to help equip them with skills in running small businesses like food, “homestays” and other ecotourism related businesses. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)