22 more towns may be added to Cagayan economic zone

LOOKING UP. CEZA head Raul Lambino has big plans for Cagayan province in Northern Luzon. File Photo from from Raul Lambino's Facebook page

LOOKING UP. CEZA head Raul Lambino has big plans for Cagayan province in Northern Luzon.

File Photo from from Raul Lambino's Facebook page

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines –  The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) is updating its 20-year old master development plan for the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) with a proposal to include 22 towns of the province’s first and second districts.

In a press statement over the weekend, CEZA said the proposal to review the development plan comes amid a “strong” demand by foreign investors looking for larger tracts of land for development and investment.

At present, only the town of Santa Ana and several islets of Aparri town were included in the list of areas under CEZA’s jurisdiction.

Lawyer Raul Lambino, CEZA administrator and CEO, said he is hoping to solicit support for the expanded special economic zone from the province’s local and congressional leaders, adding that the inclusion of Lal-lo, among others, would “correct a mistake” that was overlooked in the past.

The CEZA head said "it is illogical that the airport is located in a town that is not part of the CEZA zone”.

The plan will pave way to the creation of Greater Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (GCSEZFP), Lambino said, adding that land expansion and development would be a “logical” next step for CEZA.

‘More economic activity ahead’

Lambino also revealed that CEZA is all set to inaugurate its maiden flight late this year between Macau and Lal-lo, Cagayan via the Cagayan North International Airport (CNIA), with a brand-new runway which can accommodate Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s.

The airport, a joint venture between CEZA and Cagayan Land, is a 45-minute drive to Santa Ana town where Port Irene is expected to undergo dredging and other upgrades to position it as a major international cargo seaport and cruise ship terminal.

“With this modernized airport facility, the interconnection between the Freeport and the biggest ports and markets of East Asia and the South Pacific is now possible,” Lambino said.

“We are anticipating a lot of economic activity. That’s why I have called for a review of the master development plan,” he added.

Two major foreign firms, one in Asia and the other in the Middle East, have already expressed interest in drawing up the new master development plan, according to Lambino.

Among the new infrastructure projects in the front line of the Freeport planners are an inter-modal rail facility and expressway that would link the airport in Lallo to Port Irene in Santa Ana.

Lambino said this project will facilitate easy connection of the entry points of tourists, investments and trade.

‘Island development’

Meanwhile, CEZA is also pushing for the development of Fuga Island in Aparri town and Palaui Island in Santa Ana town both in the areas of tourism and trading. Fuga Island, for example, is hosting the new project that will develop its 10,000-hectare area. 

Lambino said the island is strategically located at the crossroads of international shipping routes to the lucrative markets of China, Hong kong, Taipei and Japan.

He said the wooded island with flat and undulating terrain is envisioned to be a private sanctuary like Hong Kong as a free- trade zone; Macau as a gaming and leisure hub; Bermuda and the Bahamas as investment enclaves; and the world-famous Maldives, Bora Bora, Waikiki and Bali as vacation getaways.

“Fuga island would easily lure tourists to its pristine coastline and powdery white sand beaches and excellent dive sites,” Lambino added.

The neighboring island Barit, a 500-hectare enclave, is also eyed as a potential stop for cruise ships.

The Freeport is also proposing the conversion of Palaui island into an “ecotourism paradise,” to include the construction of a 300-hectare smart city and cyber-park and a 600-hectare industrial park, development of a 30- kilometer white-sand beach featuring a marina, a yacht club and a fish market, and an all-weather and world-class golf course.

“CEZA used to be associated with offshore gaming and imported used cars,” Lambino said. “Our new positioning is that it will be a growth center for Northern Luzon, a magnet for investors and a mecca for job seekers.”

Lambino said CEZA is positioned to ride the wave of a projected economic boom, triggered by the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure development program.

The Duterte administration economic cluster plans to pour some P9.5 trillion in five years into the building of new expressways, bridges, railways, airports and seaports and big-ticket projects in power and telecommunication. - Rappler.com