By Zsarlene B. Chua

CORREGIDOR, an island that is synonymous with the valor of Filipino and American soldiers during World War II, will soon get a much-needed facelift.

“We’re spending P12 million to craft a tourism masterplan for the island,” said Cynthia Carreon, the CEO and chairperson of Corregidor Foundation Inc. which manages and operates the 5.5-square kilometer island during a press conference held at Conrad Hotel Manila in Pasay City on July 4.

“The primary expected result of the project is to produce a viable and sustainable integrated Comprehensive Tourism Master Plan (CTMP) for the 546-hectare Corregidor Island and a Conceptual Development Plan for the surrounding islands, anchored on the property’s rich historical background that is marketable to private sector, viable, and effective,” a foundation representative told BusinessWorld in a follow-up email.

The masterplan is being developed by Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the infrastructure arm of the Department of Tourism, with top architecture firm Palafox Associates Philippines.

While the island boasts of several attractions including the Pacific War memorial complex, the Malinta tunnel, several military barracks, Ms. Carreon said the island can offer so much more once it has been fully developed. To date, she said, only “10% to 20% of the island is developed.”

Corregidor Island is a tadpole-shaped island located 40 kilometers from Manila. Its strategic location made it a stronghold during World War II, and was the site of some of the fiercest battles.

When Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, after four months of fighting against the Japanese forces, Corregidor was the only one holding the line and the troops, led by Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, fought until they surrendered on May 6.

Ms. Carreon noted that Corregidor was such an important island that the Philippine government and the American army left behind 105 kilometers (km) of paved roads and trails on the island and 31.4 km of electric railroad tracks used to haul heavy equipment and ammunition.

The island also had a high school, where children of Filipino and American servicemen assigned to the island studied. It has an electric trolley system (Tranvia) as public transport, a movie house (Cine Corregidor), a baseball field, a swimming pool, and a business center.

Corregidor currently offers day tours and overnight stays via Corregidor Inn, which has roughly 30 rooms. Access to the island is via ferries located at the Esplanade Seaside Terminal at SM Mall of Asia.

“But our ferry operators can only accommodate 200 people a day, we’re working on expanding our capacity,” Ms. Carreon said, adding they are looking at adding water taxis to get more people on the island.

She said that several hotel operators have discussed the possibility of developing more accommodations on the island. She said the foundation is open to having private investors who will help develop the island once the masterplan is finished.

There are plans to position Corregidor as a destination for sailing enthusiasts, and for “young, active people” who would enjoy running, nature trekking, and glamping on the island.