Tell it to SunStar: Win-win for all Chocolate Hills stakeholders

SunStar Tell it
SunStar Tell it

By Bohol 3rd District Rep. Kristine Alexie Besas Tutor

These past weeks, the other district representatives of Bohol Province and I consulted our local government officials, national government agencies, and environment experts about the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument (CHNM), which is the country’s first national geopark recognized by Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

With House Bill (HB) 10438, we are united in expressing how Boholanos cherish the Chocolate Hills because it is not only our pride our contribution to the world, but more importantly, it is the symbol of our commitment to the preservation and protection of the environment. And such commitment remains steadfast to this day.

The issue of the Chocolate Hills, however, is not as simple as it seems. Rights and interests of private individuals as well as local government units exist prior to its declaration as a protected area. And this has consequences which cannot be brushed aside without prejudice to legal owners of properties within this natural monument.

Lives of families and communities, as well economic activities and public service, have been sacrificed with the blanket declaration as protected area of almost 14,000 hectares shared by all three legislative districts of Bohol.

The current issue on the Chocolate Hills has brought to fore this dilemma, which the local government and the constituents of the province have been dealing with for a time already.

United, we take this opportunity, now as our chance to finally lay to rest and give solution to this real challenge that Boholanos face every day. We do this by harmonizing the need to protect and preserve our most treasured natural monument as well as the obligation to protect and promote the rights of our constituents to property and of our local government units in delivering public service.

Thus, we, the Representatives of all the legislative districts of the Province of Bohol, collectively filed HB 10438, seeking to set the coverage of the CHNM and for the government to provide for the just compensation to owners of titled lots on the Chocolate Hills and within the 20-meter draw back from the baseline of those hills.

The 20-meter drawback is designated as a buffer zone and multiple-use zone while the Chocolate Hills are the protected area.

The bill ensures owners of the titled properties will receive just compensation and appraisal of the titled properties will be by the municipal assessor or by court order.

HB 10438 also provides that all existing private commercial structures without CHNM Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) clearance and Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and those that pose detrimental impacts as may be determined by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) will be “subjected to self-demolition for period of not more than two years.

The bill allows residential structures within the 20-meter drawback to stay, be improved, and repaired provided that “no expansion will be conducted and the owner is listed as tenured migrant.”

HB 10438 lets the owners of the titled lots harvest planted trees, fruit trees, and other agricultural crops, as well as engage in small scale livelihood projects.

Membership in the CHNM PAMB is expanded to include the Department of Tourism, National Museum, Unesco Technical Committee of Bohol, representatives of religious groups and environmental planners and architects operations within the area or within the Province of Bohol.

In the new composition of the CHNM PAMB, senators and representatives will sit as ex-officio members of the PAMB without the right to vote but shall exercise oversight functions in the implementation of all plans and programs approved by the PAMB.


No stories found.

Just in

No stories found.

Branded Content

No stories found.
SunStar Publishing Inc.