Ombudsman, House to probe Chocolate Hills resort

Ombudsman, House to probe Chocolate Hills resort
Screenshots from Ren The Adventurer's video

THE Office of the Ombudsman has launched an investigation on the resort constructed within the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, a Unesco World Heritage Site and a declared protected area.

In a radio interview on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said their investigators flew to Cebu and Bohol for the conduct of the probe.

"Kahapon ay nagsimula nang lumakad 'yung aming mga imbestigador. Isa ay pumunta sa opisina ng regional executive director sa Cebu, 'yung tatlo naman ay pumunta ng Bohol, pumunta sa bayan, at nagkakalap kami ng mga dokumento," Martires said.

(Yesterday, our investigators started flying to Cebu and Bohol. One went to the regional executive director's office in Cebu, the other three went to Bohol, went to the town, and we gathered documents.)

"Harinawa ngayong araw na ito ay maibigay sa amin ang listahan ng mga members ng PAMB (Protected Area Development and Management), 'yung mga taong nag-issue ng business permit at ng building permit," he added, referring to the Protected Area Management Board.

(We expect that today, we will be given the list of PAMB (Protected Area Development and Management) members, those who issued business permits and building permits.)

Martires said they are eyeing to immediately finish the case build-up after the Holy Week break in order for them to start with the preliminary investigation.

Meanwhile, a resolution was filed at the House of Representatives seeking to investigate the construction and operation of the Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort.

House Resolution (HR) 1652 was filed by ACT-CIS party-list Representatives Erwin Tulfo, Jocelyn Tulfo and Edvic Yap; Quezon City Second District Representative Ralph Wendel Tulfo; and Benguet Representative Eric Yap.

It was noted in the resolution that the owner of the resort claimed that they were able to secure proper permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the local government.

The lawmakers said the construction of the resort within the famed tourist destination “raises serious concerns on possible avenues for the circumvention of laws and issuances on building, business, and environmental permits, certifications, or licenses in the guise of tourism or economic development.”

“Securing permits required by law, rules, and regulations is essential to validating the propriety of the location, business purpose, and environmental considerations of establishments and should be verified by appropriate government bodies with scrutiny and not through mere presumptions,” the resolution read.

“There is an utmost need to ensure that Natural Monuments and Unesco World Heritage Sites of the Philippines are preserved, maintained, and protected at all times as against any and all private interests,” it added.

The DENR earlier maintained that the Chocolate Hills is a protected area as declared on July 1, 1997 through Proclamation 1037 issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos. The law aims to preserve the Chocolate Hills as an iconic landscape and promote sustainable tourism while protecting the biodiversity and environmental integrity of the area.

It said it was also designated as a National Geological Monument and a protected landscape, recognizing the unique geological formations and the importance of covering this natural wonder for future generations. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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