DILG considers review, moratorium on protected areas dev’t.


TO PREVENT further damage to protected areas in the country, the Protected Area Management Board’s (PAMB) mandate and organizational structure need review, and a mechanism must be established to strengthen them, the Interior Secretary said Thursday, March 21, 2024.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr., in an interview in Bohol, expressed openness to proposing a moratorium on all future developments in protected areas, pending the outcome of a DILG-led special investigation into the controversial construction of a resort amid the Chocolate Hills in Sagbayan, Bohol.

Abalos said he had discussed this option with relevant agencies, such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Tourism.

On Thursday, Abalos visited Bohol and headed the DILG inspection team visiting resorts and tourist spots in two towns that reportedly violated environmental protection laws by constructing infrastructure within the protected Chocolate Hills Natural Monument Area.

Abalos visited the Sagbayan Peak and the Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort in the town of Sagbayan and the Bud Agta Viewing Deck in the municipality of Carmen.

A DILG special investigation team had been in Bohol since Sunday, March 17.

During a press conference at Bud Agta Starting Point in Carmen, Bohol following the ocular inspection, Abalos announced that his team’s initial investigation revealed that several officials committed violations of Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Areas Protected System Act.

Abalos said PAMB also committed lapses when it allowed the issuance of the permit and approval to construct the controversial resort in Sagbayan.

Abalos, however, declined to disclose details pending the final investigation report.

He said the DILG will be endorsing the final report to the Office of the Ombudsman for legal action, expressing hope that the officials and individuals involved will be held fully accountable under the law.

“We saw what was done on a mountain; there is now a Captain’s Peak with a swimming pool. The PAMB allowed it, and we have a saying that what is good for one is good for everybody. Just imagine, out of the 1,700 hills, there will be such a swimming pool. What has happened to our environment here?” Abalos said in Filipino.


Based on their initial assessment, Abalos said the Municipality of Sagbayan indeed issued a building permit to Captain’s Peak developers even without the required Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

He said the local government unit (LGU) relied solely on a 2018 PAMB Resolution, authorizing the owner to construct the resort with a swimming pool and accommodation in flat grounds in between the Chocolate Hills in Barangay Canmano, Sagbayan.

The Sagbayan LGU also granted business and mayor’s permits for the resort management to operate, even without the ECC.

Abalos questioned the LGU’s decision to issue the building permit, as it requires ECC clearance as a prerequisite document.

The DILG investigative team also found out that the PAMB resolution given to the resort owner was approved without following procedures, Abalos added.

PAMB’s organizational structure is composed of a multi-sectoral body with the DENR and provincial governor leading the implementation of board policy.

Other members of the conservation policy board include congressmen, municipal mayor, barangay captains and other relevant government and sectoral agencies that pass resolutions that regulate the protected areas in Bohol.

Abalos stressed the need to thoroughly review not only the 2018 PAMB resolution but also its mandates, procedures, guidelines and organizational structure.

He said he will convene the PAMB in all regions and will work closely with DENR in capacitating each PAMB.


Meanwhile, to determine if similar situations to the one in Chocolate Hills in Bohol, exist elsewhere, Abalos issued a memorandum instructing all LGUs nationwide to make an inventory of structures, establishments and developments within protected areas.

As to the fate of private establishments, Abalos said he cannot yet decide on permanent closure or demolition until the investigation concludes.

Based on Proclamation 1037 of the late President Fidel Ramos in 1997, the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument has around 1,776 hills spread out over a land area of more than 14,435 hectares.

Ramos designated these hills as a National Geological Monument and a Protected Landscape due to its exceptional geological formations. These hills are located in the municipalities of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan, Bilar, Valencia and Sierra Bullones.

The Chocolate Hills National Monument, located on Bohol Island, is the only Unesco Global Geopark in the country.


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