Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Firm completes study on $2-B project in Zambales

PALAUIG, ZAMBALES, Philippines — A Korean urban planner and developer has completed a feasibility study for Mt. Tapulao, which the local government wants to turn into a major tourist destination in Asia.

The development blueprint involves the construction of five-star hotels, leisure facilities, casinos, concert halls, condominiums and villas, as well as an 18-hole golf course within a 450-hectare area of the mountain.

The $2-billion project will be patterned after Genting Highlands in Malaysia, and Yeosu Hwayang Tourism Complex and Gampo Complex in Gyeongju City, both in Korea, said Sang-Hyun Park, vice-chairman and director for Overseas Project division of Korean developer Dongho Co., Ltd.

Proponents claimed the project would uplift living standards with minimal damage to the environment.

In April, the South Korean firm signed a deal with Governor Amor Deloso for the feasibility study. The governor said Mt. Tapulao has a semi-temperate climate similar to that of the Cordillera province and can rival Baguio City, the country’s summer capital. Tapulao in the local language means pine tree, which the mountain has plenty of.

Also known as the Zambales high peak, Mt. Tapulao rises to 2,037 meters above sea level and forms a contiguous chain of mountains in Central Luzon.

Dongho specializes in developing blueprints for urban development while minimizing its effects on the environment.

Dongho will plan, design and monitor before, during and after the construction of various development projects.

It will provide services involving water quality management, air pollution prevention, erosion, waste treatment and recycling.

Palauig Mayor Generoso Amog said the project would bring progress to his town. "We welcome the Mt. Tapulao project because it will surely bring economic growth to our town," he said.

On Wednesday, the mayor led a protest march calling for the declaration of Mt. Tapulao as a mining-free zone. They want to turn the mountain into an eco-tourism site instead.

Mr. Amog blamed mining activities in some sections of the mountain, whose summit is supposedly in danger of collapsing.

"Right now, Mt. Tapulao is in grave danger, which could be saved by the proposed eco-tourism project," he said. He said the peak would be preserved for mountain trekkers, campers and nature lovers.

Under the blueprint, a road network will be developed to complement the recently opened Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway via a new access road traversing the nearby town of Botolan to Tarlac province. — Reynaldo M. Garcia, BusinessWorld

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