An umbrella business organization in Iloilo has expressed support for Ayala Land, Inc.’s (ALI) plan to redevelop the resort island of Sicogon.
Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc. (ILED) issued a statement of support after ALI Senior Vice-President Jose Emmanuel H. Jalandoni sought the group’s endorsement.
In a statement dated May 17, ILED said it welcomes the willingness of ALI to invest in the redevelopment of Sicogon Island in tandem with Sicogon Island Development Corp. (SIDECO).
ILED cited ALI’s track record in developing hotel and resort brands — such as El Nido Resorts in Palawan — as an important factor in efforts to revive Sicogon.
Mr. Jalandoni, also president of Ayala Land Hotels and Resorts Corp., said ALI aims to generate some 20,000 jobs in the initial stage of the Sicogon redevelopment project.
“What we want to happen is to provide appropriate employment opportunity for the locals. Our strategy is to hire them, and this is the only way for us to be on proper development,” Mr. Jalandoni said during the recent ILED general membership meeting.
ALI plans to establish resorts, residential developments, malls, forest trails, diving spots, an airport and a jetty port.
“We are also planning to build a 1.2-kilometer airport strip, which is longer than that of Caticlan,” Mr. Jalandoni added.
ILED, whose chairman is Ilonggo businessman Alfonso A. Uy and whose president is former Tourism Secretary Narzalina Z. Lim, is composed of 350 small, medium and large companies and key business leaders in Iloilo and Metro Manila.
Sicogon Island is endowed with white sand beaches, clear waters, coral reefs, and abundant marine life and tropical vegetation. Its popularity among tourists waned after martial law was declared in the 1970s.
One thorny issue regarding Sicogon’s redevelopment is the ongoing land dispute between some settlers and the Sarrosa family, majority owners of SIDECO who claim much of the island.
The Federation of Sicogon Fisherfolk and Farmers Association (FESIFFA) oppose the redevelopment and say they would be displaced from their land grants from agrarian reform.
The group also claimed that SIDECO is harassing members who refused the firm’s P150,000 cash assistance or relocation to Estancia town.
While ILED believes that SIDECO is the rightful owner of the island, Mr. Jalandoni said the group is willing to talk to and settle with the claimants.
“We’re open to actually discuss opportunity and option for settlers. Right now, we have given them already an option to settle in the mainland,” he said.
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