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P1.5-B rehab program to turn Manila Zoo into world-class attraction starts in July

The 56-year-old Manila Zoo will soon be a “world-class” zoo with more attractions and animals for everyone to see, while offering visitors top-notch services.

This, as the Manila City government is set to sign a joint-venture agreement with a newly-formed local company, which will pour in P1.5 billion to rehabilitate the zoo, known formally as the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden.

Mayor Joseph Estrada on Thursday said the city government chose Metropolitan Zoo and Botanical Garden, Inc., to carry out the rehabilitation of the zoo, after having satisfied the city’s specifications, despite being a newly-formed company without any experience in building or operating zoos.

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“They will spend P1.5 billion to make the zoo world-class, like [the one] in Singapore,” Estrada said.

The city government is expected to sign the contract with Metropolitan Zoo next month, with the overhaul of the zoo starting soon after.

“The renovation will start by July, as I enter my third year as mayor,” Estrada said. “We hope to finish it before my term ends. The project will be done in phases, so the zoo will not have to close while the renovation is going on.”

James Albert Dichaves, director of the Manila Parks and Recreations Bureau which has direct control over the zoo, said that the company will subject it to a complete facelift.

“This is the first time since the zoo opened in 1959 that a major rehabilitation will be happening. Previous mayors have only made minor renovations to the zoo—generally this is still the same zoo that opened back then. We are doing a complete overhaul,” Dichaves told the Inquirer.

The project will entail building better and bigger enclosures for the animals as well as new attractions inside the 5.5-hectare zoo. “After this project, the zoo will not look anything like it is today. It will be totally modern,” he added.

Along with the infrastructure upgrades, Dichaves said that the company would also invest in adding new species of animals.

According to him, the company has also committed to maintain a separate breeding and resting park for the zoo’s animals. The park will be located outside Manila and will enable the zoo’s animals to be transferred so they can rest from time to time.

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Discussions for renovating Manila Zoo started in 2013 when the city government entertained unsolicited proposals from a group of Singaporean investors and from the locally-owned Metropolitan Zoo and Botanical Garden Inc. The two groups gave presentations on their plans, with the local firm besting the Singaporean offer.

“Both presented great plans, but in the end, Metropolitan was chosen, among others, because we found their proposal to be fairer to the city,” Dichaves said.

Being an unsolicited proposal, the city government subjected Metropolitan Zoo’s proposal to a Swiss challenge under the Build-Operate-Transfer Law, in which they published the company’s plans and invited other bidders to take part. Dichaves said that the challenge ended last month, with the company’s proposal besting other plans.

The project will be run as a joint venture, public-private partnership enterprise, with the city government allowing the company to operate the zoo for several years to recoup its investment.

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TAGS: Joseph Estrada, Manila Zoo, Metro, News
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