NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Gov. Aris Aumentado ordered the investigation of the defacement of some Chocolate Hills in barangay Canmano, Sagbayan town which could “put it at risk” after having been declared by UNESCO as the first and only Global Park in the country.
The governor directed the Bohol Environment and Management Office (BEMO) and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the province and the regional office to investigate the reported defacement of some of the hills.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan, at the same time, started its investigation in aid of legislation, into the alleged destruction of some of Chocolate Hills.
Provincial Board Member Nathaniel O. Binlod said in his privilege speech during the session on Tuesday that there’s a need to look into this so as not to put Bohol’s geopark status given by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at risk.
“I urge this honorable body to join hands with the Protected Area Management Board (APMB) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ((DENR) to conduct an examination and investigation of the defacement of the UNESCO Global Geopark, Chocolate Hills of Bohol,” Binlod said.
He cited the news report of Cebu’s “The Freeman” that the identified hills have been defaced to give way to man-made structures, resorts and other commercial projects. He named the “Captain’s Peak” resort in said barangay, where parks, and cottages at the base have been built and two hills scraped for an access road.
In his initial huddle with the resort owner, Binlod, who hails from Carmen town, the center of the Chocolate Hills location, said the resort owner (whom he did not name) had already presented the development proposal to PAMB.
But he did not say if the said project proposal got PAMB’s green light.
Chocolate Hills consist of some 1,776 conical shapes and sizes spread over the towns of Carmen, Batuan, Sagbayan and other towns, according to DENR.
The Chocolate Hills are classified as natural monuments, thus protected under the Republic Act 7586, or an Act Providing for the Establishment and Management of Natural Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).
Section 20 of the law prohibits the following acts within the protected areas: 1) Hunting, destroying, disturbing,
or mere possession of any plants or animals or products derived therefrom without a permit from the Management
Board; 2) Dumping of any waste products; 3) use of any motorized equipment without an MB permit; 4) mutilating,
defacing or destroying objects of natural beauty; 5) damaging and leaving roads and trails in a damaged condition;
6) squatting, mineral locating, or occupying any land; 7) constructing or maintaining any kind of structure, fence or
enclosures; 8) leaving in exposed or unsanitary conditions refuse or debris; and 9) altering, removing, destroying or
defacing boundary marks or signs.
They’re named and protected under the Expanded National Integrated Areas Protected System (NIPAS) Act or Republic Act 7586, as amended by Republic Act No. 11038.
PAMB FORBIDS ALTERATION
“The hills should not be altered or defaced and extraction is strictly prohibited.”
This was one of the provisions of Resolution No. 01, series of 2018, executed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), governing the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument, for the Captain’s Peak Garden Eco-park Tourism resort in barangay Canmano, Sagbayan town.
The board members initially found that the resort had built some cottages and two water slides for a swimming pool were constructed at the foot or sides of at least three hills that may be considered chocolate hills.
The joint committees of environment and Tourism chaired by Board Member Atty. Jamie Villamaor and BM Tita V. Baja, respectively, initially discovered this during their ocular inspection of the resort on Friday as part of their investigation in aid of legislation following the privileged speech of BM Nathaniel Binlod on this concern.
Both board members have yet to issue an official statement on the alleged damage inflicted on the Chocolate Hills surrounding the said mountain resort until after they can hear the sides of both parties who are slated to be called for a committee meeting sometime next week, Villamor told a media interview
The ocular visit by the joint committees to the resort was also prompted upon the instruction of Vice-Gov. Dionisio Vitor A. Balite as an offshoot of Binlod’s speech.
No one of them yet could say if the construction of these structures at the feet of the said hills is a blatant violation of the PAMB’s approved conditions when they issued the said Resolution governing and giving the green light to the resort.
Among the prohibition issued by PAMB are the following: No structures at the top of the hill; function hall and all other infrastructures should be erected and/or constructed within the 20% area from the base of the hill which is considered as the multiple uses of zone pursuant to Department Admin Order No 2009-09; no construction of a zipline; color should blend with the color of the environment and the style of the building should go with the slope and terrain of the hills; the proponent should secure pertinent permits as required including the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC); and the proponent will set aside the corresponding royalty fee of 2.00 per guest to the PAMB.
Another kink the joint committee committed to resolve whether, or not, the clearing of the “access road” within the resort area was a breach of the existing laws as alleged by the regional paper report.
Sagbayan officials led by Mayor Jun Suarez, who also visited the resort, said that the “road access” is but an improvement or widened to make it more accessible as this was an “existing” road.
But the “improvement” as claimed by Sagbayan officials freshly cut limestone formation across the feet of two hills which may be considered Chocolate Hills
The cutting or improvement of the “access road” inside the vicinity of the resort was done by the town, but not yet finished, was the result of the barangay request.
Canmano’s Sangguniang Barangay passed Resolution No. 02, s. 2023, on February 03, 2023, “requesting Mayor Engr. Resituto Q. Suarez III to repair the road connecting barangay Camano and Lbertad Norte, particularly the road going to Captain’s Peak area.”
The said Resolution obtained was signed by barangay Chairman George G. Bonajos and certified by barangay secretary Mario V. Bahinting.
The PAMB has issued another Resolution No. 21, s. 2023 and approved on July 22, 2022: “Favorably endorsing the development of Captain’s Peak Resort situated at Canmano, Sagbayan, Bohol within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument (CHNM).”
The said Resolution was prompted after PAMB’s inspection and request of the owner’s application to transfer the location of some of the amenities and facilities of the resort near the resort-owned lot.
The transfer includes the development of a swimming pool, and children’s pool, including water slides, (shower
area and dressing room). Ten cottages, one function room, and 10 rentable cottages.
“The project area is located at the flat portion and it is within the multiple-use zone of CHNM-PA per proposed zoning. The area (Lot 3561, CAD 050-D, containing an area of 10,068 square meters) is titled property owned by Edgar Buton, the owner/applicant of the resort with TC No. 37138,” the Resolution said.
Among the conditions set by the said Resolution for the resort to comply are the following: no development in areas that PAMB disallows, maintaining road right of way, providing proper drainage, providing enough parking space, installation of material recovery facility, providing prescribed septic tanks, securing necessary permits and proponents are required to pay P2.00/guest as a royalty fee and a one-time administrative fee, of P5,000.00.
The said Resolution is certified by presiding officer Tito Ancog, reviewed by Penro Ariel N. Rica and concurred by regional executive director Paquito D. Melicor, Jr. as PAMB chair.
Prior to the inspection, the joint committees, including BMs Greg Jala, Aldner Damalerio, Nathaniel Binlod and Dr. Elpidio Bonita with municipal officials headed by the mayor met at the latter’s office.