By Freddie G. Lazaro
Sta. Ana, Cagayan – A unique tourism complex will soon rise at the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) to take advantage of the province’s natural beauty.
To realized this, CEZA Administrator and CEO Raul L. Lambino is now focusing on a rapid-paced infrastructure building as a vital step toward creating within the economic zone a gaming and tourism complex with its unique blend of sea, sand and sun entertainment, and extreme adventure.
Lambino said that new and better infrastructure would enhance the investment environment in the Greater Cagayan Advanced Economic Zone and Freeport (GCAEZF) that he is proposing before Congress.
“Cagayan already has a natural beauty that is hard to resist. What we need is to show that the Freeport can be an investment jewel in Southeast and East Asia,” said Lambino in a statement.
Port Irene in Santa Ana town, site of the CEZA headquarters in northeastern Cagayan, enjoys the advantage of proximity to the biggest developed markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
It is located along major international shipping lanes but its potential has not been unlocked because of its inadequate infrastructure and poor port conditions.
“We are now revisiting the Freeport’s master plan to update it with the changing time,” said Lambino. “Our medium-term development is to be centered on building the conducive environment for investors to locate their businesses at the Freeport.”
The plan to expand the Freeport’s territorial jurisdiction, he said, is also aimed at transforming it into a major transshipment and logistics hub that would give it the name, “Gateway to the Pacific”.
Lambino said a Taiwanese firm and two major investors in CEZA have expressed interest in creating a cluster of tourist attractions, among them a casino gaming complex, hotel and villas, water theme park, golf courses, a horse-riding layout and a premium duty-free outlet shopping mall.
Palaui Island, with a 20-kilometer powdery shoreline, is the main attraction in the proposed development, including the enchanting Fuga Island, a 10,000-hectare properly that could rival popular tourist destinations in Europe when fully developed.
The island of Palui is a 7,000-hectare protected sanctuary that is also known as “Survivor Island” where a popular global television series was filmed. CNN Travel has ranked Palaui Island the 10th best beach in the world.
Palaui has breath-taking sceneries and undulating terrain. Among its allures are a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna, wide grass meadows, thick mangroves, tropical rainforest and warm blue waters.
Lambino also said the North Cagayan International Airport in the neighboring town of Lallo will be opened to chartered flights starting next month.
Domestic and international flights will start in March to make the beach and island destination accessible to tourists and junkets for players from Macau and Hong kong.
Lambino said a Korean-based company has offered at no cost to the government a P2-billion proposal for the dredging, development and rehabilitation of Port Irene so it could cater to large post Panamax vessels and transhipment cargoes.