Lobregat leads inspection of projects on Sta. Cruz Island PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 May 2013 14:38

With barely one month and five days left before he will leave office on June 30, Mayor Celso Lobregat yesterday led a group of city officials in an ocular inspection of the ongoing projects worth P15 million at the Great Sta. Cruz Island, about 3 nautical miles off  mainland Zamboanga.

Envisioned to be a world class eco-tourism beach resort, owing to its pink-sand and pristine natural sanctuary, the Great Sta. Cruz Island is currently undergoing a low-impact improvement with the implementation of its Phase I development projects that would make the island “functional and operational”.

The ongoing projects worth P6.6 million include the construction of 18 small picnic huts, 10 big picnic huts, 7 grilling and washing stations, a drinking station, a lifeguard structure, a gazebo and comfort rooms, all aesthetically-designed and spread at strategic locations on the island.

As per inspection and assessment yesterday, all these projects are now 20% to 30% complete, and barring all hitches, the projects will be completed in three months’ time.

Up next for implementation on the island under its Phase 1 development is the P8.3-million water supply system. It will include the construction of a water distribution system, a power house, a storage facility, a water tank, an atmospheric water machine, electrical works and other utilities. The project has already been bidded out and awarded to the winning constructor, and is currently awaiting the notice to proceed.

During the ocular inspection of the projects, Lobregat along with members of the Protected Area and Eco-Tourism Management Board (PAEMB) suggested some changes and recommendations to make the proposed structures even more functional once they are completed and operational.

Shortly, the outgoing city mayor and congressman-elect for the first district presided over the first quarter meeting of PAEMB, during which City Planning and Development Coordinator Engr. Rodrigo Sicat presented to the body for discussion a proposed ordinance that seeks to “operationalize the Great and Little Sta. Cruz Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape for Eco-Tourism, allowing the imposition of certain fees/charges, imposing penalties for violations thereof and appropriating funds for its operations and for other related purposes.”

Also joining Lobregat to the island were Councilor Mayra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar, City Environment and Natural Resources Officer Rey Gonzales, his assistant Eduardo Bisguera, City Assessor Erwin Bernardo, Assistant City General Services Officer Arch. Rizamay Basing, Arch. Rodel Falcasantos and staff, Atty. Edward Fronda, Dr. Eduardo Holoyogoy of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Rosalio Tenorio of the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology (ZSCMST), Engr. Antonio Sta. Elena, Arch. Manuel Tatel and the contractor.

The Zamboanga City Police Office, Navy, Maritime, Task Force Zamboanga, the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and all other agencies were also represented.

It can be recalled, the Great and Little Sta. Cruz Islands were established as a natural park for tourism development under P.D. 654 dated Feb. 4, 1975. The islands were later declared as tourist zones and marine reserve pursuant to Proclamation No. 1801 dated Nov. 19, 1978, placing both under the administration and control of the then Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).

On April 23, 2000, Proclamation No. 271 was issued, declaring what was then known as “Big and Small Sta. Cruz Islands Tourist Zone and Marine Reserve” as a protected area and its peripheral areas as buffer zone pursuant to R.A. 7586, otherwise known as “The NIPAS Act of 1992” and renamed the islands as the “Great and Little Sta. Cruz Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape.”

Since the islands remained undeveloped to their tourism potentials for years, the city government under Lobregat’s administration had proposed to the DOT and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), formerly PTA, to operate, manage and administer the islands.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod passed Resolution No. 489 on August 9, 2010, authorizing the mayor to use any available funds of the city to manage, administer and develop the islands. On Jan. 20, 2011, the City Council approved another resolution (No. 35), authorizing the mayor to sign the memorandum of agreement for the development, management and protection of the islands.

Thus, on June 17, 2011, the jurisdiction over the Great and Little Sta. Cruz Islands was effectively transferred and turned over to the city government after Lobregat and officials of TIEZA, DOT, DENR and PAEMB had forged the MOA.

The turnover of the islands to the city government signalled the beginning of a long and tedious process of drawing a roadmap to develop, protect, preserve, conserve and rehabilitate the islands. The process started with an architectural design competition for the structures that will be established on the Great Sta. Cruz Island. — Vic Larato