House seeks probe on Chocolate Hills resort

By Zaldy De Layola

March 18, 2024, 5:54 pm

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

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

MANILA – Members of the House of Representatives on Monday formally filed a resolution asking for a congressional inquiry into the construction and operation of a resort within Bohol province’s Chocolate Hills, a world heritage site.

Under House Resolution (HR) 1652, the lawmakers cited Proclamation 1037 signed July 1997, declaring the Chocolate Hills as a natural monument.

“Regardless of the existence of prior private rights, no activity of any kind including quarrying, which will alter, mutilate, deface, or destroy the hills shall be conducted. All public and private lands within, around and surrounding the hills shall not be converted to other purposes which is inconsistent with the objectives of this proclamation,” read the proclamation signed by President Fidel V. Ramos.

House Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo and fellow ACT-CIS Party-list representatives Edvic Yap and Jocelyn Tulfo, Benguet Lone District Rep. Eric Yap, and Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Ralph Wendel Tulfo said someone should be held responsible for allowing the construction and operations of Captain’s Peak Garden & Resort.

The resort ceased operations on March 14 and admitted it has no environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

“Hayagang pangbabastos ito sa ating likas na yaman. Ang tanong dito ay paano pinayagan at sino ang pumayag na ma-ipatayo ang isang resort sa lugar na dapat ay ating pino-protektahan (This is a blatant abuse of our natural resources. The question is how it was built and who approved it in an area that we should be protecting),” Tulfo said.

HR 1652 pointed out that the Chocolate Hills is protected and integrated into the National Integrated Protected Areas System under Republic Act 7586, as amended, which prohibits “mutilating, defacing, or destroying objects of natural beauty, or objects of interest to cultural communities” as well as “constructing of maintaining any kind of structure, fence or enclosures, conducting any business enterprise without a permit.”

A viral video drew attention to the Chocolate Hills resort.

Aerial shots showed swimming pools, slides, cottages, and other buildings.

The owner claimed the construction of the resort underwent proper procedures with the approval and favorable endorsement from the Protected Area Management Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The Sagbayan municipal government also issued a business permit even without an ECC from the DENR, which is tasked to maintain and protect the Chocolate Hills’ natural features for tourism, scientific, educational and recreational purposes.

“The construction of the Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort raises serious concerns on possible avenues for the circumvention of laws and issuances on building, business and environmental permits, certification, or licenses in the guise of tourism economic development,” the resolution said.

“There is an utmost need to ensure that the natural monuments and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage sites of the Philippines are preserved, maintained, and protected at all times as against any and all private interests,” it added. (PNA)