‘Sicogon tourist arrivals not affected’

Tourist arrivals on Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo are not affected by the issues hounding the multi-billion peso Sicogon Island Tourism Estate development, according to the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO).

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) ordered property developer Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) and its joint venture partner Sicogon Island Development Corp. (Sideco) to stop the implementation of their P10-billion project on the island.

“Tourism-wise, indi sya affected,” PTO head Bombette Marin told IMT NEWS.

In fact, Marin said two of the private resorts on the island are now fully booked for summer.

Huni Sicogon and Balay Kogon were temporarily closed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for violations of environmental laws and regulations.

Balay Kogon on Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo (Photo by Bombette Marin)

Pero mabalik sila by the end of the month. As of now, they are fully booked,” said Marin.

Last month, DAR issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) against ALI and Sideco following a petition filed by agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).

The petition seeks to revoke a conversion order covering 334.64 hectares of land, which was placed under compulsory acquisition under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The ARBs said ALI and Sideco failed to comply with their obligations stipulated in a signed agreement.

In 2014, farmer-residents represented by the Federation of Sicogon Island Farmers and Fisherfolk Association (FESIFFA) signed the compromise framework agreement with the two developers.

Under the agreement, ALI and Sideco will allocate 30 hectares for resettlement housing, P76 million for the construction of amenities and land preparations for the residential site, P38 million for livelihood and training projects of FESIFFA and its members, and a donation of a 40 hectares of land for conventional farming.

For allegedly failing to abide by these provisions, DAR said the two firms “have been the subject of several dialogues conducted by the agency to resolve the issue raised by FESIFFA and its request to revoke the land conversion order.”

In the seven-page CDO, ALI, Sideco and the persons acting in their behalf are enjoined to “refrain from continuing with construction activities until a petition for revocation of conversion was resolved or acted upon.”

Prohibited activities include “ground preparation, construction of structures, earth-moving activities, and even measuring, testing and surveying activities”

Last year, the PTO recorded more or less 8,000 tourist arrivals in Sicogon last year.

The whole province welcomed 347 thousand tourists in 2018.

For this year, Marin said they are targeting to record 360 thousand to 400 thousand tourist arrivals.

Mas kampante kami subong because we have trained tourist guides sa mga island kag sa mga resort. Aware man na sila nga ang ila no. 1 responsibility is to ensure the safety of the tourists,” Marin said.IMT

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