Monthly Archives: January 2011

Asia’s first underwater resort hotel to be built off Philippine island

PH yahoo news
January 16, 2011

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) – The Philippines is all set to embrace a futuristic undersea project to rival those in Maldives, Dubai and Fiji, according to a Filipino team of developer and architects, which is set to build an underwater resort hotel in Palawan.

Dubbed as the Coral World Park, this multibillion-peso project will set the record as Asia’s first underwater resort development and the biggest undersea living in the world once the project is completed by 2013.

Picture this: You wake up to a picture perfect view of frivolously swimming manta rays and fishes or hold a meeting in a restaurant submerged in the pristine waters. Say what? All this isn’t science fiction according to an all-Filipino team behind the project.

Taking the helm is Singapore-based businessman Paul Monozca, who is known for his advocacies of helping Filipino sports teams and the overseas remittance business. Partnering with Monozca is renowned eco-architect Jose Pinggoy Manosa, who will take charge of the architectural design of the Coral World Park.

It’s high time we brought sustainable development underwater because there have been similar projects elsewhere in the world that have been proven successful,” Monozca told Inquirer Property in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

He cited global warming and the rising water levels as factors that pushed him to look into the possibility of exploring the readiness of the country for this kind of revolutionary development.

Pegged at some $150 million, the undersea structure takes pride in its 24 undersea suites or pods called Anemones,” which are submerged 60 feet below sea level with a fascinating 270-degree view of the sea. The 15-foot-high Anemones will be built by a US firm that specializes in submarines.

Several units of these Anemones will be open for public viewing at reasonable rates while majority are for ownership. Each 50-square-meter Anemone (the size of two-bedroom condo unit) can be customized per owners preference. It can be used as a private villa, a receiving or entertainment room that could cater to as many as 15 people.

Filipino ingenuity

How can one move from one pod/suite to another? The Coral World Park will be built with submarine technology. The mode of transport will be through glass bottom mini-submarines to be powered by the first mobile hydropower system, which generates up to 1 megawatt of electricity. This will use a patented water recycling and pressure chamber invented by an all-Filipino team of engineers, Monozca said.

The project will show to the world Filipino ingenuity as 80 percent of the project will be run and manned by Filipinos, from engineers to architects down to personnel,” Monozca said. When completed, the proposed underwater habitat will be the biggest in the world.

Also part of the futuristic project is a 50-bedroom onland boutique hotel complete with amenities like casinos, spa, business center and an underwater restaurant to be named Starfish,” which could seat as many as 200 people in its 600-square-meter dining area. A seahorse-shaped science center aptly called Seahorse Science Center will be built for tourists and will serve as the park’s marine observatory and conservation center showcasing the richness of marine life in the Philippines.

The project is expected to pour in billions of investments and will help create thousands of jobs for the people in Palawan and neighboring provinces.

Conservation tourism

Funding will come from Monozca’s Monaco-based group, which counts investors from the United States, the Middle East and Russia. As an aggressive venture in ecotourism business, the project also aims to replenish the coral reefs in the area and would advocate conservation tourism in the country.

Monozca related that everything has been in the planning stage since last year. He identified a group of islands in Coron as the site for development owing to its perfect geography, clear and cove-protected waters and rich marine life. The islands of Palawan hardly experience earthquakes and are not prone to visiting typhoons that occasionally hit the country.

The construction is set to start soon and will be completed in two years, according to Manosa, who said this would be my biggest project so far in my professional career.” Manosa is behind some of the biggest projects like the San Miguel Building constructed in the 1980s and the Brent International School.

I was overwhelmed myself when the project was offered to me. Even my family is excited about this; my grandchildren are asking when they could visit the underwater resort,” Manosa said.

The group dispelled fears of security as the whole resort will be tightly guarded. The proponents also envision a cashless system of transaction as everything will be made via specially issued bracelet cards similar to the function of a credit card.

The group promised strict adherence to protect the environment and the biodiversity of Palawan. They said no marine life will be harmed during the course of its construction to its operations.

The natural treasure of Bislig

BusinessWeek Mindanao
Ped T. Quiamjot
January 14, 2011

THE MOVIE scene of the late Hollywood actor Christopher Reeves portraying Superman in the 80’s sequel showed Niagara Falls as a backdrop. As the superhero glides across the screen with his kryptonite power, shades of rainbow rays arch from the sun prism captured the wonders of cascading waters. Niagara Falls located at the border of Ontario, Canada and the State of New York is one of the most visited tourist attraction in North America.

The inspiring cinematic scene could be replicated today at Tinuy-an Falls or “Little Niagara Falls” of the Philippines as its awesome four tiered falls spanned 95 meters wide to prominence. Tinuy-an is located in Bislig City. A component city of the Province of Surigao del Sur at the southeastern coast of Mindanao facing the Pacific Ocean.

Surigao del Sur is known as a forest and rich mineral triangle sharing boundaries with Agusan del Sur and Cospostela Valley. A remnant of century old Toog trees, ferns and vines provides rain forest landscape slowly disappearing and devastated from the uncontrolled logging activities of the high and mighty. The news headlines on print and TV tells of flooding, death and mud slides of mountain lands in the region that grabbed the attention of the national scene recently.

Tinuy-an Falls is the last bastion of the eco-system found at the Bagnan and Borboanon villages in Bislig. Small islets with multi layered stones protect the river basin from flood and erosion and attract swimming and rappelling from both ends with a hypnotic view of the curtain of water. But how long could this magnificent attraction hold from the adverse of development and mineral extraction where the upper mountains are turned upside down by miners in search for coal, copper and gold inviting mitigation to climate change? What has the local government done to protect its natural treasure? Uncontrolled development and exploitation brings misery to humanity. It causes environmental degradation and disaster.

Tinuy-an Falls is the source of water for the Bagnan impounding pond which is pumped to the more than 50,000 households in Mangagoy and Bislig. It supplies the irrigation of rice lands in Bagnan and enables rice harvest twice a year.

Bislig which is defendant of its allocation of the Internal Revenue Share from all component cities has a ruined and struggling economy from the closure of the biggest paper mills manufacturing plant in Asia in 2006; it is agonizing to keep its cuppers afloat to fund various local government services.

Once the flagship project of the government during the Marcos regime, Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP) which was a spin off the original Bislig Bay Lumber Company (BBLCI) of the Andres Soriano Group of companies supplies the newsprint requirements of the printing industry. Other by product goes to the cupboard used for packaging of the country’s export products. The former manufacturing plant sources its materials from its timber concession and industrial tree planting contracting activities benefiting Tree Farmers.

By fate of politics, mismanagement and the economics of currency adjustments unfavorable to the peso, PICOP, run billions of unpaid loans from the banking institutions leaving the Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines empty handed. With assets dicipatated as foreclosed machineries are cannibalized of metal parts sold as junks in the Butuan and Davao City junk shops. From what was an industrial workforce of 30,000 migrants, Bislig City is back to agriculture and fishing. Retail business survives from the currency remittance from those who left and work in the foreign land. While many of its women with less education who could not adapt to agricultural disciplines are waylaid to prostitutions in the Karaoke Bars and Massage Parlors of the nearby cities.

Government urged to stop conversion of forest lands

BusinessWorld Online
Kathleen A. Martin
January 27, 2011

RATHER THAN IMPOSING a national log ban, the country should instead stop conversion of forest lands for non-forestry uses, an expert on forestry said yesterday.

“Instead of a total logging ban, the Philippines should stop the conversion of forest lands into corporate farms, cattle ranches, golf courses, subdivisions, garbage dumps, and industrial sites and other non-forestry uses,” Ricardo M. Umali, former president of Society of Filipino Foresters, Inc., and former secretary of the Department of Environment & Natural Resources, said in a statement.

Mr. Umali made the statement in response to President Benigno S. C. Aquino’s pronouncement last Jan. 14 that he was considering a total log ban, and to two pending bills in the Senate, Senate Bills 1360 and 2172.

Mr. Umali said a total log ban does not necessarily stop or minimize flooding, mudflows and landslides, citing that these are the consequences of climate change seen in excessive rains. Mr. Umali also cited that other countries which supposedly have more forest lands than the Philippines, such as Australia and Brazil, are also suffering from flooding due to excessive and heavy rainfall.

“Deforestation in the Philippines is caused mostly by conversion of forests to rangelands of ranchers and livestock growers and to farmlands by landless farmers who practice the destructive kaingin or slash and burn agriculture. Much of the farmed former forests have become marginally productive and should be reforested,” Mr. Umali said, adding that the country can stop deforestation through providing more opportunities for livelihood.

Earlier, the Society of Filipino Foresters, Inc. opposed a national ban on logging, saying that it can discourage investments in the forestry sector.

Investors from Italy discovering Northern Mindanao

BusinessWorld Online
January 27, 2011

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Familiarity breeds investments in Cagayan de Oro City.

“Practically nothing is known about Mindanao in Europe, except that it is dangerous to come here because of the bombings between [sic] Christians and Muslims,” said Francesco Consalvi, a lawyer from Italy representing Italian investors interested in South and Southeast Asia.

“But when we went around this region to Camiguin and Bukidnon, there are a lot of potential development opportunities,” Mr. Consalvi added.

“We are interested in tourism activities such as the zip line, monkey bridge, whitewater rafting and others, and the dive sites are not yet famous but among the best that I have seen.”

Christian Stefano Marri, a businessman from Rome, agrees that Cagayan de Oro is a good investment area for Italians.

“Aside from the potential growth of the region, Filipinos speak English very well,” he said.

“Additionally, you have the same religion with Italians, so staying with you is very easy.”

The two are themselves looking to personally invest in four units of the Primavera Residences, a condominium being developed in the Pueblo Township by ItalPinas, Inc.

“It is better to have your own place in an area you plan to go to regularly than stay at a hotel,” said Mr. Marri.

“We are also after the low rates of the properties now, which are sure to go up when the international airport nearby is completed,” he added.

“Unlike Thailand, which has already a developed tourism industry, this part of Mindanao is in the process of development.”

Romolo Valentino Nati, chief executive officer of ItalPinas, said that construction of the Laguindingan International Airport will spur the growth of the region.

“We have been monitoring news of possible airports [sic] opening in several areas in the Philippines,” Mr. Nati said.

“But we wait until actual construction begins because many of the reports are not realized,” he added.

“Once an airport is completed, you can really see the value of properties go up.”

Mr. Nati also said that investment prospects in the region are better than in Italy.

“Although the tax is 8%-10% in the Philippines and only 2%-3% in Europe, the return on investment is much better,” he said.

Primavera Residences is also within an economic zone, which offers tax holidays to investors.

“The real estate market is also not doing fine in Europe right now. The growth is here; the action is here,” Mr. Nati said.

It was noted that many of the current investors here are South Koreans, with only a few Italian expatriates settling down and starting small businesses.

“Italians are scared to go to new places where there are no Italians,” said Mr. Consalvi.

“When Italian investments come — which we will promote once we get home to Rome — Italian tourists also come.”

Mr. Nati explained that ItalPinas specifically chose the name Primavera for its project to entice Italian buyers.

Primavera Residences has already pre-sold all 18 commercial units and 30 of the 138 residential units. Half of the buyers are overseas Filipino workers. ItalPinas hopes to sell 10 more by the end of the month before full construction operations start.

Zamboanga del Norte considering ban on open-pit mining

BY DARWIN T. WEE, Correspondent
BusinessWorld Online
January 24, 2011

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Zamboanga del Norte could be the next province to ban open-pit mining.

In a draft measure, Zamboanga del Norte’s provincial board cited the adverse effect of open-pit mining on the environment and the meager share that the provincial government gets from mining taxes. It did not say how much it wanted to get.

If the province were to approve the measure, it will be the second to ban this mining method after South Cotabato. The latter, which approved its ban at the end of June last year, is now hearing arguments of opposing sides in this issue.

Another province, Romblon, ordered last Jan. 10 an indefinite moratorium on the exploration, excavation and utilization of metallic minerals until all concerns are addressed.

“One of the reasons why we are proposing this ordinance is the issue of share distribution,” Michael Allan Z. Ranillo, a member of the provincial board, said in an interview yesterday.

He also described open-pit mining as a “destructive” method that denudes forests.

Mr. Ranillo, who is one of the authors of the ordinance, entitled: “Protecting and conserving the integrity of the land and water resources,” said that the board also expects to clash with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which had earlier ordered South Cotabato to suspend the implementation of its ban until a review is completed.

South Cotabato had said it would defy the department, arguing that local governments have autonomy to enact and enforce laws governing their constituents and areas under their jurisdiction.

“We, the local government unit, have all the right to protect our natural resources, which are being raped by mining companies,” Mr. Ranillo said.

The provincial government of Zamboanga del Norte yesterday held its first public hearing on the ordinance, which was attended by representatives of mining firms, business groups, indigenous peoples, and religious groups.

At least two big mining firms are operating in Zamboanga del Norte: the Canadian-backed TVI Resource Development Phils., Inc. and Philex Mining Corp., which are into extracting gold, silver, copper, and zinc.

Mr. Ranillo noted that TVI, which is one the first mining firms that were attracted by Republic Act No. 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act in 1995, uses open-pit mining at its Canatuan mining site in the town of Siocon.

In a statement yesterday, TVI defended the use of the open-pit mining method.

“The fears on open-pit mining as reflected in the proposed ordinance, we wish to respectfully reiterate, is unfounded. This mining method is dictated by comprehensive studies that consider the configuration of the deposit and the geological features of the region,” the statement quoted Rene P. Subido, TVI’s vice-president for corporate social commitments, as saying during the public hearing.

“We believe that The Philippine Mining Act satisfactorily provides a framework for ensuring that the country gains the maximum benefits from the development of our mineral resources without compromising our environmental integrity,” he added.

One of the measures to assure protection of the environment, he said, is the “institutionalization of the Multi-Partite Monitoring Team” that regularly checks the mining firms’ compliance with environmental laws and regulations.

“Local government units of Zamboanga del Norte…are amply represented in the Canatuan Multi-Partite Monitoring Team. We believe this is an area where the province can strengthen its oversight and monitoring functions and, we submit, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan may wish to consider including [such strengthened functions] in an ordinance in lieu of an outright ban on open-pit mining,” Mr. Subido argued.

He also warned that the passage of the proposed ordinance in its present form will have enormous implications for Zamboanga del Norte. “If such legislation is passed, it will bring misery to hundreds of families who depend on legitimate large-scale mining for livelihood because they will lose their jobs or their businesses,” he said.

Michael M. Malacca, the president of the Dipolog business chamber, said the proposed ordinance is “business-unfriendly” and warned that Zamboanga del Norte, which is considered one of the poorest provinces of the country, will lose millions in tax collections and prospective investments if the ordinance were passed.

“Mining is an extractive industry and, by its very nature, has direct and indirect impact on the environment, whether it is open-pit, tunnel or any other mining method. These impacts, however, are known and can be mitigated. Environmental planning and rehabilitation are keys that the Philippine Mining Act has prescribed,” Edwin B. Capili, Philippine Chamber of Commerce vice-president for southwestern Mindanao, said.

He also noted that TVI had paid excise taxes totaling P205 million in 2003-2010. Some 40% of that amount, or about P82 million, had gone to local governments hosting the project, as required by law.

Mr. Ranillo said the provincial government will hold two more hearings before it decides on the ordinance. “It could be in April or May,” he said, when Zamboanga del Norte would make its decision.