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Multibillion-Peso Projects to Boost Bicol Tourism
Legazpi City center.

Albay may soon become the latest playground of the rich and famous as the local Sunwest Group of Companies pours in more than P3.2 billion to develop tourist destinations in this southern Tagalog province.

Scheduled for soft opening in December this year are the first two destinations — the Discovery Bay Misibis resort in Cagraray Island and the Embarcadero commercial and information technology complex at the Legazpi City port.

"Right now in Legazpi City, you don't really have many places to go to at night. You only have two malls and they close early in the evening. But at the Embarcadero, there will be a ferry service for tourists to go to Misibis, which is around 20 minutes away," says Raeanna Cranbourne, project director of HSAI-Raintree.

Sunwest brought in HSAI-Raintree, the management firm behind Discovery Leisure Co., to operate the two projects, as well as the four-year-old Hotel Venezia in Legazpi City.

The 5-hectare resort in Misibis village in Cagraray Island would be the second Discovery-brand luxury resort in the Philippines, next to the Discovery Shores in Boracay.

Although actual rates have yet to be deliberated, Discovery Bay Misibis will cater to an exclusive, high-end market, or those willing to spend around $200 to $300 for a night's stay, says HSAI-Raintree president Annabella Wisniewski.

Aside from two restaurants, 38 villas and a new Mandala Spa branch, Discovery Bay Misibis will bank on its white-sand beaches and view of the Albay Gulf and Mayon Volcano to attract tourists.

"Misibis has its own mark. The area is raw and everything is master-developed. This means we’re not going to have the same challenges we have in Boracay now," notes Tourism Secretary Joseph "Ace" Durano.

While Boracay largely attracts a party-going crowd, Misibis is geared more toward those looking for a quiet getaway, an ecoresort and an adventure destination, Wisniewski says.

Ecotourists' Playground

Wisniewski adds that she hopes Discovery Bay Misibis will help build Albay's image as an ideal tourist attraction.

Around 20 minutes away by boat from Discovery Bay Misibis is the Embarcadero de Legazpi, where seaside commercial center meets IT park.

Five buildings are already being constructed out of the 12 in the pipeline.

The first five buildings will house open-air food parks, restaurants, spas, groceries, an entertainment center and a call center with an initial 100 seats.

Out of a total of 60 commercial spaces up for lease, around 36 tenants are already confirmed while 17 more are under negotiation, says Annie Sumanga, president of Misibis Land Inc. (MLI), the Sunwest subsidiary that oversees the construction of Discovery Bay Misibis and Embarcadero de Legazpi.

Sunwest has acquired three catamaran ferries, two helicopters and an airplane to use Discovery Bay Misibis and Embarcadero de Legazpi as jump-off points to other tourist destinations in the region, says Alexander de la Cruz, MLI sales director.

And if the three properties could provide the accommodations, then the rest of the Sunwest projects under the master plan could provide the "playground" for ecotourists, says Durano, who attended the blessing of the Discovery Bay Misibis last Aug. 8.

Sunwest CEO Elizaldy Co says there are plans to develop another property near the lake in Manito town.

Sunwest is envisioning a health spa, hot spring resort and ecopark in the area.

Sunwest also plans to put up basic tourist facilities in a 30-ha property in whale shark-capital Donsol town in Sorsogon.

Donsol's Dancalan village is also gaining renown as an ideal spot for year-round firefly-watching.

Upon the completion of the new destinations, the Bicol tourism office expects a growth in tourist arrivals by at least 10 percent.

Last year, about 897,680 tourists visited the region and they spent an estimated P443.5 million.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, meanwhile, lauded Sunwest for pioneering private investments in areas facing the Pacific, which, while rich in natural wonders, are also more susceptible to natural hazards.

He assured the investors, however, that the local government was committed to disaster risk reduction to protect investments in the area.

"We are in a typhoon belt, but this should not be a hindrance to the generations to come," adds Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal.






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