Catholic bishop joins call to preserve Chocolate Hills

A video of the resort inside the Chocolate Hills in Bohol went viral on social media.
A video of the resort inside the Chocolate Hills in Bohol went viral on social media.Screenshot from Ren The Adventurer video

DIOCESE of Tagbilaran Bishop Alberto Uy has enjoined the faithful to preserve the natural wonder of the Chocolate Hills in Bohol province, one of the world’s famed global geoparks declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

The bishop's statement came after footage of the Captain’s Peak resort located in the Sagbayan town, which is part of the Chocolate Hills heritage site, went viral on social media on March 13.

 “It is important for us, Boholanos, to recognize and cherish the unique gifts bestowed upon us, including the extraordinary beauty of landmarks like the Chocolate Hills,” said Uy in his social media post on March 14.

The hills are located throughout the towns of Carmen and Batuan, consisting of about 1,776 mounds of the same general shape.

The construction of the resort caused uproar to the public and environmentalist groups, who demanded government officials to padlock the resort.

“I am happy to see a growing number of Boholanos who are embracing the significant responsibility of caring for our precious creation. This emerging awareness is crucial in our collective journey towards a sustainable future,” the bishop added.

Bohol Governor Aris Aumentado maintained that they already addressed the issue about the Captain's Peak resort development in the Chocolate Hills area in September 2023.

Bohol third congressional district representative Alexie Tutor also emphasized the resort “should not have been allowed to be built in the first place.”

The congresswoman immediately called for the demolition of the resort.

 “A resort in the middle of Chocolate Hills warrants not just indignation but appropriate action from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Tourism. It begs the question: can a natural wonder be appropriated for private gain?” asked lawyer Aaron Pedrosa, leader of the multi-sectoral group Sanlakas.

On July 1, 1997, the late President Fidel Ramos signed Proclamation No. 1037, declaring the Chocolate Hills, covering over 50 square kilometers of land area, a protected area.

On May 24, 2023, Unesco declared the Chocolate as the Philippines’ first geopark, adding it to the list of 195 geoparks in 48 countries across the globe.

According to DENR, they issued a temporary closure order for the resort on September 6, 2023, while a notice of violation for operating without an environmental compliance certificate was given on Jan. 22, 2024.

Meanwhile, the resort’s management told reporters that they have secured permits for the construction of the resort, except for the Environmental Compliance Certificate required by the DENR.

The resort, which features a large-sized swimming pool, slides, and other amenities, had its soft opening in 2019 after obtaining a business permit from the local government unit of Sagbayan.

The construction was halted in 2020 due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.

The full operation of the resort happened in 2022.

Speaking to various media outlets, resort manager Julieta Sablas urged for an investigation for another resort being constructed in the Chocolate Hills area.

The Department of Tourism maintained the resort “is not an accredited tourism establishment under the auspices of the Department of Tourism's accreditation system, and there is no pending application for accreditation for the same.”

“During the dry season when precipitation in inadequate, the grass-covered hills turn chocolate brown, hence the name in reference to a branded confection,” said Unesco.

The formation of the Chocolate Hills was a result of thousands of years of erosion of the limestones on what was once a thick build-up of coral reefs that thrived during the Pliocene period approximately 2 to 3 million years ago, it added. (Ronald O. Reyes/SunStar Philippines)


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