Why is there a resort in the middle of Bohol's Chocolate Hills?

MANILA, Philippines – Trending in X is the 'Chocolate Hills' due to a resort built in the middle of the haycock hills, which allegedly ruins the beautiful view of one of the tourist spots in the Philippines.

Why is there a resort in the middle of Bohol's Chocolate Hills?
Photo courtesy: Screenshot from Ren The Adventurer/Facebook

From the top view, the resort is indeed noticeable, seemingly disrupting the picturesque view that tourists could capture in their photos.

Because of this, netizens have reached out to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ang Bohol local government questioning if there was a permit for its construction.

According to a statement posted on social media, the DENR announced that the closure directive was issued on September 6, 2023. Additionally, a notice of violation was issued against Captain's Peak Resort in January 2024 for operating without an ECC (environmental compliance certificate).

Read: Viral Chocolate Hills resort ordered temporary closure – DENR

The department revealed that Chocolate Hills were designated as a protected area on July 1, 1997, under Proclamation No. 1037 issued by former President Fidel V. Ramos.

Additionally, if a piece of land had been titled before an area was declared a protected area, "the rights and interests of the landowner will typically be acknowledged and honored."

Why was it permitted to be constructed in that particular location initially?

Despite the designation of Chocolate Hills as a protected area under Republic Act 7586, which establishes and manages the Natural Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), a significant portion of the land remains under private ownership, as stated by Maximo Lomosbog, the Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator, in an interview with The Freeman.

Julieta Sablas, the sister of the resort owner, said in an interview last August 2023 that the land was already titled when they purchased it in 2005. Initially acquired with the intention of agricultural use, it was later repurposed as a tourist attraction due to the unsuitability of the soil for farming. Sablas elaborated that they submitted a proposal to the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) prior to the construction of the resort. Despite endeavors to mitigate environmental consequences, she admitted that certain sections of the hill had to be excavated.

Meanwhile, Bohol Governor Erico Aris Aumentado also issued an official statement about it.

“We already addressed the issue about the Captain’s Peak resort development at the Chocolate Hills area in Sagbayan, Bohol in September 2023. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan Committee on Environment has conducted an investigation and submitted its report and recommendation. As stewards of the province, we cannot let this go on. We have asked DENR and the PAMB to change its policy to the point that any development within the Chocolate Hills area which is not consistent to Bohol’s UNESCO designation as a Global Geopark should be disallowed. We will elevate this to the Secretary of the DENR for a clear guidance and direction,” it can be read.

— Noel Ed Richards, The Summit Express

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