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Malaysian group to revive resort — Mindanao officials

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES [ BusinessWorld Online ]


DAVAO CITY — The mothballed Samal Casino Resort complex in Samal island could be revived starting December. This was discussed at the sidelines of the 18th senior officials and ministers meeting of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) in Brunei last week.

Jesus G. Dureza, presidential adviser for Mindanao and BIMP-EAGA signing minister for the Philippines, confirmed the plan to reopen the resort owned by Malaysian conglomerate Ekran Berhad.

Reopening the hotel-casino could take a few more months considering its poor condition, Tourism officials earlier said.

Ekran Berhad executives led by chairman Tan Sri Datuk Ting Pek Khiing met with Philippine officials led by Mr. Dureza on August 7. Others who were at the meeting were Island Garden City of Samal Mayor Aniano P. Antalan, Davao del Norte Rep. Anton F. Lagdameo, Trade and Industry Undersecretary Merly M. Cruz, and Undersecretary Virgilio L. Leyretana of the Mindanao Economic Development Council.

Officials of the Kuala Lumpur-based Ekran Berhad could not be immediately contacted for the details of the company’s plans but regional tourism officials and Samal City local executives said they have received information that the Malaysian firm intends to return here and revive the hotel-casino complex.

Mr. Lagdameo, chairman of the BIMP-EAGA Affairs committee at the House of Representatives, said the reopening of the resort would boost tourism and employment opportunities in Samal.

"Talks with the Malaysian investors to re-open it started years back and we’re hoping that we can get them back here before the end of the year since a concrete timetable will have to be done hopefully before the EAGA leaders summit in October," he added.

Ms. Cruz said the plan to reopen the resort was a result of a "sound business decision."

"They believe the business environment in Mindanao has improved significantly," she said.

The P1.5-billon, 250-hectare resort, one of the largest investments in Mindanao in mid 1990s, started operations in 1998. However, the company decided to close the resort in 2000.

Based on information from those who were at the BIMP-EAGA meeting, Ekran Berhad officials also plan to work on the re-establishment of direct flights between Davao City and Kota Kinabalu in partnership with the Malaysian Airlines, which used to link Davao City to EAGA destinations. — Carmelito Q. Francisco

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