By: LEANDER C. DOMINGO, TMT on June 17, 2018

CAGAYAN Valley or Region 2, particularly the northeastern coastal town of Santa Ana in Cagayan province, will be Asia’s next travel and trade jewel, according to the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).

Santa Ana town, known as a magnet for kiteboarders and windsurfers and host to Beach Volleyball Republic competitions at Anguib beach, is the CEZA headquarters in northeastern Cagayan.

Region 2 comprises the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela, Cagayan and the island of Batanes.

CEZA Administrator Raul Lambino, newly appointed presidential adviser for Northern Luzon, said he is upbeat on Cagayan’s looming role from being known in the past only as a hidden gem to one now ready to compete with leisure and investment havens in the country and the world.

NEXT GEM Described by CNN Travel as one of the best beaches in the world, Palaui has hosted two seasons of the famous television series “Survivor.” The 7,000-hectare island is a protected sanctuary with a 20-kilometer shoreline and home to a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna, wide grass meadows, thick mangroves, tropical rainforest and warm blue waters. CONTIBUTED PHOTO BY CHAD CARLO DOMINGO

He noted that Cagayan is the ideal paradise for gaming and tourism complex with its unique blend of sea, sand and sun, entertainment as well as extreme adventure.

“Cagayan already has natural beauty that is hard to resist. What we need is to show that the freeport can be an investment jewel in Southeast and East Asia,” Lambino said.

CEZA, he added, has already proposed to Congress a fast-paced infrastructure building to enhance the investment environment in the Greater Cagayan Advanced Economic Zone and Freeport (GCAEZF).

“Port Irene which is located along major international shipping lanes whose potential has not been unlocked because of its inadequate infrastructure and poor port conditions has the advantage of proximity to the Asia-Pacific region’s biggest developed markets,” Lambino said.

A project of then-President Ferdinand Marcos, Port Irene, which is named after his daughter, is located in Barangay Casambalangan in Santa Ana town.

“Revisiting the freeport’s master plan to update it with the changing times, our medium-term development is to be centered on building the conducive environment for investors to locate their businesses at the freeport,” according to Lambino.

Calling it the “Gateway to the Pacific,” he said the planned expansion of the freeport’s territorial jurisdiction aims to transform it into a major transshipment and logistics hub.

Lambino reported that a Taiwanese firm and two major investors have expressed interest in setting up a virtual “tourist city,” which would include a casino gaming complex, hotel and villas, water theme park, golf courses, a horse-riding layout and a premium duty-free outlet shopping mall.

Some of the main attractions at CEZA are Palaui Island with a 20-kilometer shoreline and Fuga Island, a 10,000-hectare property that could be developed like world-famous Maldives, Bora Bora, Waikiki and Bali.

Also named “Survivor Island” after the popular global television series “Survivor,” Palaui is a 7,000-hectare protected sanctuary, which CNN Travel has ranked the 10th best beach in the world.

It has a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna, wide grass meadows, thick mangroves, tropical rainforest and warm blue waters.

Among other attractions at CEZA are the 500-hectare Barit Island, the 900-hectare Mabbag Island, the 200-hectare Pozo Robo and a mountain resort complex facing Palaui and Fuga islands.

CEZA, a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) tasked to manage and supervise the development of the 54,118-hectare Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport was created through Republic Act 7922 or the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Act of 1995.

It covers the entire Santa Ana town and the islands of Fuga, Barit and Mabbag in Aparri town.

According to Lambino, some of the best business opportunities in CEZA are in IT, business process outsourcing, offshore banking units, financial institutions, sports, amusement and recreation, medical tourism, integrated resorts, casino gaming operations, shipbuilding and repair, power and water plant development, logistics and cargo handling, hotel and restaurants, duty-free shops and outlets, factories and manufacturing and agricultural production.