Chocolate Hills mess caused by deficiencies in law – House panel

By Zaldy De Layola

May 20, 2024, 9:54 pm

<p>Captain's Peak Garden & Resort within the Chocolate Hills in Sagbayan, Bohol <em>(Screengrab from video of Ren the Adventurer)</em></p>

Captain's Peak Garden & Resort within the Chocolate Hills in Sagbayan, Bohol (Screengrab from video of Ren the Adventurer)

MANILA – House Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo on Monday found numerous loopholes in the law that led to the construction of structures, including the Captain’s Peak resort, in the world-famous Chocolate Hills in Sagbayan, Bohol.

During the House Committee on Natural Resources hearing on Monday, Tulfo cited the negligence of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for allowing the resort to be built in a national heritage site that declared a geological park by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

“The problem na nakita ng committee na ito was may loopholes. May gray area. Dapat ito is DENR's job (The problem seen by this committee was [that] there are loopholes. There is a gray area. This is DENR’s job),” Tulfo said.

He noted that Captain's Peak is situated on what is classified as "alienable and disposable land," declared by the government since 1920s and could be sold to private individuals.

Through Proclamation No. 1037 during the time of the late President Fidel V. Ramos, Chocolate Hills was declared a "natural monument" to protect it and prohibit any structures in the area.

However, during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it was amended by Proclamation No. 333, which only prohibited the construction of structures on Chocolate Hills and within 20 meters from the baseline of each hill.

“’Yung sinasabi nila, kahit na sabihin nila 1926 pa, alienable, pwede na ibenta, pwede na i-develop ‘yung lugar na yun. Pero por diyos por santo, I mean, national heritage, tourist attraction, lalagyan mo naman kung ano-ano, hindi maganda sa mata (They are saying, even they say it was in 1926, alienable, can already be sold. But I mean, that’s a national heritage, tourist attraction, then you build anything on it, that’s unpleasant to the eyes),” Tulfo said.

“The DENR secretary then should have corrected President Ramos. It was in their hands to correct it, but they did not do so. So, there is a problem. That’s why now, our committee, we heard a lot already. We will do something about it,” Tulfo added.

Committee chair Negros Occidental 2nd District Rep. Alfredo Marañon III and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel agreed, stating that based on their investigation, the DENR was significantly at fault for allowing the construction of the controversial resort despite the legal prohibitions.

The lawmakers said based on their investigation, they will promptly make appropriate recommendations to correct the deficiencies in the law and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. (PNA)