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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Olutanga, a 20,000-hectare island which for ages was known as a Pirates hiding place, will soon become a major tourism destination in the Southern Philippines with white sand beaches along an 89-kilometer coastline, snorkeling and diving sites and spear-fishing as its main come-ons.

The mayors and stakeholders of the three towns of the island which belongs to Zamboanga Sibugay, Olutanga, Mabuhay and Talusan, drew a virtual picture of how they would like Olutanga to be in the next five years during the 2-day planning workshop to craft a Master Plan of Development for the long-neglected island which is the biggest in the Moro Gulf and the 34th largest in the country.

The tourism sites will include Pulo Lawom or islet with deep water, Pulo Mabaw or islet with shallow water and the famous Snake island, where sea snakes abound.

It will also boost its production of high value aqua and fisheries products, especially the fish cage farming of the expensive "Lapulapu" or Grouper which has a natural spawning area in the island.

Officials of the three towns in the island also agreed to jointly develop their dried fish-making, the seaweed and coconut industry.

Mayors Arthur Ruste of Olutanga, Dr. Lulu Caloñge of Mabuhay and Orlando Ramiso of Talusan accepted the proposal of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) which facilitated the planning workshop to organize a common Tourism Development Council for the island.

Addressing security concerns which had placed the island among the high-risk areas in the region, the three mayors committed P1.5-M to be used in building high-speed security boats to be used by both the Army and the police in patrolling the seas surrounding the island.

Additional patrol bases of both the Army and the PNP were also identified while the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) pledged to provide a meager counterpart through fund sourcing.

The three mayors also agreed to address two very important facilities to prepare for the development of the island into a tourism destination, namely power and water.

For water supply, the three towns agreed to jointly develop spring sources in the town of Mabuhay while identifying and developing water catchment areas and gulleys where mini-dams could be built.

To provide sufficient power for the island, the three mayors accepted the MinDA proposal to explore the possibility of establishing a Solar Farm which will be owned by the three towns to provide power for the whole island.

At the sidelines of the planning workshop, MinDA facilitated the organization of the Infrastucture Monitoring and Advisory Group which would monitor the construction and implementation of the P1-B Alicia-Olutanga Road Project and the bridge which would connect the island to the mainland.

The IMAG includes the provincial government, the construction company, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the religious sector, the barangay chairmen and the mayors of the four towns where the projects are being implemented.

At the end of the 2-day planning workshop, all the stakeholders signed a pledge of commitment to implement the identified plans and programs within the next 5 years.

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