Resort fuels outrage, sparks action

Resort fuels outrage, sparks action
Screenshots from Ren The Adventurer's video

THE Bohol Provincial Government is set to create a new committee that will oversee developments in the province’s renowned Chocolate Hills while the Municipality of Sagbayan will comply with the closure order against the controversial resort built alongside the Unesco-declared Global Geopark.

Netizens slammed the owners of Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort in the town of Sagbayan, after a video posted online by a Davao-based vlogger showing the resort surrounded by the hills went viral on Wednesday, March 12, 2024.

A youth-led ecological organization also criticized government agencies for neglecting to safeguard natural resources in favor of development projects.

Chocolate Hills is a Unesco World Heritage Site and a protected area under Proclamation 1037, series of 1997, and Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 said in a statement that the resort management was earlier issued a temporary closure order (TRO) last Sept. 6, 2023, and a Notice of Violation last Jan. 22, 2024, for operating without an environmental compliance certificate.

DENR 7 Executive Director Paquito Melicor issued a memorandum on Wednesday, March 12, to the Bohol Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office to check on whether the resort complied with the TRO.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said in a statement the resort was not issued, nor did it have accreditation from the Department of Tourism.

In an interview on Wednesday, Bohol Gov. Erico Aris Aumentado said the issue was first addressed in September 2023 after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Committee on Environment, led by Board Member Jamie Villamaor, raised concern.

Aumentado urged the DENR 7 to expedite legal action and coordinate with local government units.

The governor also welcomed the call for a Senate inquiry on the matter and refuted talks that corruption may have been involved in the issuance of a title on the property where the resort is located.

Aumentado said during last year’s investigation, the resort owner presented to the Provincial Board a lot title, mayor’s permit, a resolution from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), and a document stating DENR’s approval.

PAMB is the agency overseeing the operations at the Chocolate Hills area as well as other protected areas in the towns of Valencia, Sierra Bullones and Bilar.

Aumentado said the Provincial Legal Office is reviewing legal measures, including whether the Provincial Government can issue a cease and desist order against the resort management and its owners.

The controversial resort is located 30-40 kilometers from the renowned 360-degree view deck in the town of Carmen, where most of the Chocolate Hills can be seen.

The hills, consisting of mounds of the same general shape, span the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan. The popular attraction draws thousands of local and international tourists every year to Bohol.

To avoid similar incidents in the future, Aumentado said the provincial government plans to create a new committee, composed of environmentalists and experts to oversee and review all development plans and project proposals from the public and private sectors applying for PAMB’s and DENR’s approval.

Aumentado also asked the Provincial Board to pass an ordinance that will establish safety nets, policies and guidelines for the development of protected areas and geopark sites in the province, including the Chocolate Hills.

The Provincial Government will also collaborate with DENR to identify lot owners situated at the vicinity of the Chocolate Hills.


In a statement, the owners said the resort plan underwent “rigorous scrutiny” before it was given DENR’s approval. They said the resort complied with all environmental regulations to minimize its ecological effects on the Chocolate Hills.

The resort owners also assured conducted with utmost care and consideration of the environment.

In a separate advisory, the resort owners also said they will comply with DENR’s directive and will temporarily close for maintenance and environmental preservation efforts.


Zyoen Garcia, lead convener for Stewards and Volunteers for the Earth Philippines (Save PH), a youth organization devoted to environmental protection, lambasted projects that claim to promote job creation and tourism but endanger natural resources.

“Government agencies, despite having the authority to disallow any projects encroaching or posing a threat to our protected areas have been instrumental in such transgressions,” she said in a statement sent to SunStar Cebu on Thursday, March 14.

She also raised concerns over land ownership proposals and foreign investment advocated by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration and warned of potential illegal land conversions and threats to protected areas.

Garcia cited numerous projects that, she said, jeopardized the integrity of natural resources in exchange for developments.

This includes the ongoing construction of wind turbines on Masungi Reserve, a protected wildlife sanctuary in Baras, Rizal, and the alleged illegal conversion of a 204-hectare communal farmland into a mall in Carmona City, Cavite.

Meanwhile, Sen. Nancy Binay, chair of the tourism committee, called for a Senate investigation aimed at preserving Bohol’s protected areas and key tourist sites.

In a statement, Binay echoed Save PH’s call for the DENR to refrain from issuing permits for development projects that deface natural resources.

The DENR also on Wednesday said it had issued a temporary closure order against the pool resort constructed at the heart of Chocolate Hills.

“If a land was titled prior to Proclamation 1037 declaring an area as protected area, the rights and interests of the landowner will generally be recognized and respected,” the agency said. / EHP, KJF


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