Bohol Island is PH’s first Unesco Global Geopark

Bohol's Chocolate Hills (Photo from Provincial Government of Bohol)
Bohol's Chocolate Hills (Photo from Provincial Government of Bohol)

BOHOL Island in the Visayas has been named by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as the first and only “global geopark” in the Philippines.

The announcement was made during the 216th Unesco Executive Board Session held in Paris, France on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

The Unesco Global Geopark label, which was created in 2015, recognizes geological heritage of international significance.

“Geoparks serve local communities by combining the conservation of their significant geological heritage with public outreach and a sustainable approach to development,” Unesco said in its website.

Bohol joined 17 other new sites to the Unesco Global Geoparks network, which currently has a total of 195 geoparks in 48 countries.

The Unesco Global Geoparks, which include ecological, cultural and archeological heritage sites, are managed through a comprehensive approach that encompasses conservation, education, research, and responsible tourism, said the Bohol Island Geopark in a Facebook post.

It said that by adopting the geopark concept, public and private stakeholders are encouraged to work together to foster the promotion and practice of geoheritage conservation, geoscience education, environmental awareness, cultural heritage preservation, and sustainable development within the geopark.

Total area

The geopark in Bohol Island covers 8,808 square kilometers of land and surrounding lush marine protected areas, according to the Unesco National Commission of the Philippines.

“The island province is home to 1.4 million inhabitants who have kept alive more than 400 years of rich history and cultural traditions in harmony with its unique geological treasures. The geopark abounds in karstic geosites like caves, sinkholes and cone karst, including the famous Chocolate Hills, which show distinct and mostly uniformly shaped conical limestone hills in the central portion of Bohol,” it said.

The Danajon Double Barrier Reef along Bohol’s northern coast is also the only one of its kind in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

“A modern day showcase of the powerful movements inside the earth’s crust is the recent raising of the seabed forming the uplifted marine terrace in Maribojoc and Loon, and the creation of the rupture site in Inabanga. Similar forces within the earth have also raised Bohol’s oldest basement rock, the Alicia Schist from under the ocean floor,” Unesco added.

The National Commission of the Philippines said the geopark is “not only a testament to the earth’s very dynamic history preserved in the diverse rocks and geomorphological features in and around the island, but it is also a demonstration of the Boholanos’ strength and steadfast faith while embracing the uncertainty of geological hazards coming their way.”

In a statement, the Provincial Government of Bohol said the island’s journey as a global geopark started in 2013 when a group of researchers from the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning conducted field works on potential geoparks in the Philippines.

The group of researchers then identified Bohol’s geological karst and limestone landforms as a prospect.

In 2015, the researchers partnered with the Provincial Government by conducting research, collaborations, and workshops preparing for the Unesco designation guided by the Philippine National Commission for Unesco.

“Bohol became one of the 18 potentially new Global Geoparks nominated in 2022 for its geological significance and scientific importance,” said the Province.

“Under the leadership of Governor Aris Aumentado, the direction since 2022 had embraced the Global Geopark campaign as an inclusive and multi-sectoral platform that can leverage Bohol’s position as a living laboratory for arts, culture, and heritage in the country and in the region; one that represents Bohol’s best and pride of place. This move is consistent with the Strategic Change Agenda of the Provincial Government, under Governor Aumentado, that aims to make Bohol a smart province built on pride of place, human resource development, environmental sustainability, and innovations toward global competitiveness,” it added.

Bohol First District Representative Edgar Chatto, for his part, congratulated Bohol and acknowledged the “collaborative work” of the Provincial Government offices and partners to preserve the island’s geological heritage.

“As a Unesco Global Geopark, we now stand with the rest of geoparks in the world and with Unesco as a tourism destination and as an environment and geologically protected area, the first and only one in the country at that,” he said.

He said when he was governor of Bohol in 2013, he met Dr. Mario Delos Reyes of the UP School of Urban and Regional Planning, whose research with University of Hamburg’s Dr. Gero Hilmer selected Bohol as possible candidate for global geopark.

“We celebrate this achievement with gratitude to the Unesco and the Global Geoparks Network whose guidance and support have been instrumental to this recognition,” Chato said.

“With this designation, we take pride in all the beauty and wonder that Bohol has to offer and take on the challenge for its preservation so that Bohol can reach greater heights of growth and development,” he added. (LMY)


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