Controversial Chocolate Hills resort shuts down

John Sitchon

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Controversial Chocolate Hills resort shuts down

Captain's Peak resort in Bohol.

John Sitchon/Rappler

A Bohol town official says Sagbayan Mayor Restituto Suarez III signed the permit of Captain’s Peak Resort because he had thought that the owner’s papers had been already reviewed by his subordinates

BOHOL, Philippines – The controversial Captain’s Peak Resort in Sagbayan town, Bohol, closed its doors on Thursday, March 14, following the revocation of its business permit.

The resort went viral after netizens saw that its structures were built within the protected zone of the Chocolate Hills.

Sagbayan Mayor Restituto Suarez III revoked the resort’s business permit after he learned that there was a temporary closure order (TCO) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in September 2023, a copy of which the town government did not receive.

“During this closure, we will be implementing various eco-friendly initiatives to further enhance the sustainability of our resort. We are committed to upholding the highest standards of environmental stewardship and ensuring the preservation of the natural beauty that surrounds us,” the resort’s advisory read.

The resort secured a business permit in 2019 and had it renewed on January 9. 

On January 22, the DENR called the resort out for operating without an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) via a notice of violation.

Suarez’s executive secretary, Felito Pon, said on Thursday afternoon that the mayor signed the permit on the presumption that the owner’s papers had been already reviewed by his subordinates.

The Sagbayan town government served a cease-and-desist order to the resort on Thursday afternoon.

Pon acknowledged that there were lapses on the part of the local government and that they would be strict in processing business permit applications because of this.

“While this is undoubtedly a challenging time for us, we want to assure you that we are actively exploring all available avenues to address this issue and are hopeful for a swift resolution,” the resort said in another advisory.

The resort assured that it will be working with the concerned government agencies towards a “positive outcome.”

Counting the days

Julieta Sablas, the resort’s administrator, said their 16 employees would likely lose their jobs in the coming days. She said the resort has been helping residents near the resort by providing them with livelihood.

“Dako man unta ni og katabang unta sa pagsuporta sa among mga anak unya inyo pa iwad-on (This could have been a big help in supporting our children, but you want to take it all away),” resort maintenance staff Irene Mondano told Rappler. 

Mondano said she had been working for the resort owner, Edgar Buton, long before the establishment opened in 2019, and managed to send her child to college because of that.

“Asa man mi mangita og trabaho unya mga edaran nami ug naa rabay age limit? (Where are we going to find work now when we’re old and there’s an age limit?),” she said.

Mondano’s co-worker, Elisa Mahusay, a 48-year-old mother of four, said many of the workers, who live nearby, were happy to work at the resort because they didn’t have to spend on fares to get there.

She said she witnessed how the resort administrator and other staff worked long hours to secure an ECC, adding that they were given the runaround especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unta mabalik ni ang Captain’s Peak aron makatrabaho gihapon mi (Hopefully, Captain’s Peak will return so we can still work),” Mahusay said. –

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