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Town execs say suit planned over wasted ecotour project

/ 09:55 PM November 17, 2011

SAN PEDRO, Laguna —Officials of Majayjay, Laguna, have yet to come up with a clear solution to the P24-million debt incurred for a shoddy ecotourism project, but they all agreed they needed one to fix the mess left by the previous administration.

“Our hands are tied because there has not been a proper turnover yet of the project [documents, from the former officials to the present government],” said town Councilor Jun Zornosa.

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The Majayjay Eco-Tourism Project, which obtained funding from the World Bank, was supposed to have developed areas around the Taytay Falls in Barangay Gagalot into a resort with picnic huts, a souvenir shop, rest and camping areas.

Construction started in 2007, costing P23.7 million, but the facilities were never used. In a report, the Commission on Audit (COA) said the project generated no income for the town.

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“We knew this was coming,” said Vice Mayor Ana Rosas who agreed with the COA report.

Rosas, who opposed the project when she was still councilor, blamed the fiasco on former Mayor Victorino Rodillas, during whose term the loan from World Bank was obtained.

“The materials (mostly wood) used were not right. Someone almost fell off (the walkway) because the wood was already brittle. The facilities were all rotting and yet we have to pay for it,” she said.

The town government has to pay for the principal debt and interest from 2008-2022.

In 2010, Majayjay paid P1.2 million for the loan. Rosas said 20 percent of the town’s Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) is automatically deducted to pay for the loan.

Majayjay has an annual budget of P42 million-P47 million mainly coming from its IRA.

Mayor Teofilo Guera said the town won’t be able to pay the loan unless the project was bid out to the private sector. He said a foreign investor, whom he did not identify, had expressed interest in rehabilitating the project.

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Some town officials, however, weren’t too keen on bidding the project out to the private sector. They didn’t believe an investor would be interested in the project.

Rosas said the town could negotiate with World Bank to suspend payment of the loan’s interest “until Majayjay recovers.” She said townsfolk could be hired to fix the facilities.

Councilor Zornosa said the town council stopped the release of P2 million in payment to the project’s contractor, Atlantic Erectors Inc.

Zornosa said the council plans to sue former town officials responsible for the project.

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TAGS: ecotourism, Laguna, Majayjay, Tourism
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