Philippine resort in Chocolate Hills area sparks boycott calls

Estimated read time 4 min read

A resort built in the Philippine protected area of Chocolate Hills in Bohol has drawn criticism and calls of a boycott from enraged Filipinos.

This is the first time that a resort has been built in Chocolate Hills, a major tourist attraction in the Philippines. The Chocolate Hills is comprised of more than 1,000 rounded hills. Bohol island where the hills are located is part of 195 global geoparks across 48 countries declared by UNESCO.

On the Facebook page of Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort Bohol, netizens have called for a boycott of the resort built within the Chocolate Hills, a protected area since 1997.

Noemi Jolly Ram described the resort as an “eye sore”. “If you really did acknowledge the significance [of Chocolate Hills], why build your resort there? If you really did, you wouldn’t destroy the natural beauty of the hills with your out of place resort,” Lei Delmoro wrote in the comments. “Boycott!” Hershey Tan Langwas said, echoing similar sentiments. “Please move out if you respect Bohol,” Jih Alex commented.

On Wednesday (March 13), the Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort Bohol issued a statement claiming that its construction “received the necessary approvals from relevant authorities, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)” and that it had an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

However, DENR dismissed the claims, saying that the resort was issued a Temporary Closure Order last September 6, 2023 as well as a Notice of Violation last January 22, 2024 for operating without an ECC.

The authority said that as of Wednesday, it has issued a memorandum directing the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in Bohol to create an inspection team to ensure that Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort Bohol is complying with the Temporary Closure Order.

What is the Philippine law on Chocolate Hills?

According to the DENR, the Chocolate Hills in Bohol was declared a protected area through Proclamation No. 1037 issued by then president Fidel Ramos on July 1, 1997.

“This Proclamation designated the Chocolate Hills 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,” the DENR statement read.

“The declaration aimed to preserve the iconic landscape of the Chocolate Hills and promote sustainable tourism while protecting the biodiversity and environmental integrity of the area,” it added.

DENR explained that if a land was titled before the area was declared a protected area, then the landowners’ rights and interests will “generally be recognized and respected”, however, authorities “may impose certain restrictions and regulations as to how the land may be used and developed within the protected area, even for privately owned lands.”

According to DENR, these restrictions and regulations are to be detailed in the Environmental Impact Statement before the issuance of an ECC for the project.

Local officials blamed

Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay, chair of the Committee on Tourism, expressed dismay over the construction of the resort in Chocolate Hills, and asked concerned government agencies and local government units to explain why permits were granted and the resort was allowed to operate.

“If the government agencies, which has the mandate and responsibility to take good care of the Chocolate Hills, has a pro-environment mindset, our question is how come a resort was built and there are also cottages and swimming pool,” Binay said in a statement on Wednesday.

Binay said she received a report that the Protected Area Management Board approved the proposal and issued a resolution “favorably endorsing” the development of Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort in 2022 and 2023.

“We understand the importance of development, but there should be boundaries. If the Department of Environment and Natural Resources continues to issue Environmental Compliance Certificate in the guise of ‘tourism development’, I believe they have misunderstood what ecotourism is all about, and they have become complicit in defacing a natural monument they’re supposed to oppose,” she said. ICA/PNA/Expat Media

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