DENR says viral Chocolate Hills resort continued operating without ECC

John Sitchon, Wenilyn Sabalo

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DENR says viral Chocolate Hills resort continued operating without ECC

ECC. The Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort is found in the protected zone of the Chocolate Hills in Bohol.

The Captain's Peak Garden and Resort's Facebook page

The controversial resort is located within the protected zone of the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument

CEBU, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the controversial resort built within the protected zone of the Chocolate Hills in Bohol province was slapped with a closure order in 2023 but kept operating.

“In the case of the Captain’s Peak Resort, the DENR issued a temporary closure order last September 6, 2023, and a Notice of Violation to the project proponent last January 22, 2024 for operating without an ECC (environmental compliance certificate),” the agency disclosed in a statement on Wednesday, March 13.

DENR says viral Chocolate Hills resort continued operating without ECC

The DENR added that as of Wednesday, its local officials have been instructed to check whether the resort was compliant with the closure order.

Speaking with Rappler, Captain’s Peak Resort administrator Julieta Sablas confirmed that their business establishment had received the closure order but that they were appealing the decision.

She also admitted that they are still in the process of obtaining an environmental compliance certificate.

Protected zone

As pointed out by the DENR, the Chocolate Hills were declared a protected area in 1997 by the administration of the late president Fidel V. Ramos.

“The declaration of the area as a protected area may impose certain restrictions or regulations on land use and development within the protected area, even for privately-owned lands,” its statement read.

The agency explained that such restrictions shall be detailed in the environmental impact statement prior to the issuance of an ECC, which the resort did not have.

Sablas said the property is located in Sagbayan town. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) website, the municipality is among the locations of the Chocolate Hills.

Sablas said her brother, Edgar Button, bought the property – around 5 hectares of land – in 2005 before starting development around 2018. About 2 hectares of the lot were made into a resort with a swimming pool and cottages. 

Wala gyud mi nanghibalot sa Chocolate hills. Naa mi sukod sa patag nga naa sa regulation (We did not touch the Chocolate Hills. We have a measurement of the plane that is within regulation),” Sablas said. 

Kung imung ianhi sa personal, kung naay muingon nga gihilabtan, dili gyud namo buhaton kay mahal pud namo ang Chocolate Hills (If you came here personally, if there are those that say we are defacing it, we can honestly say that we did not because we love the Chocolate Hills),” Sablas said. 

Outrage online

The story of the resort went viral after netizens shared content creator Ren The Adventurer’s social media post which showed an aerial view video of the property.

Gerard Jamora, a resident of Bohol, said in a social media post, “Giguba raman ninyo nang Chocolate Hills (You’re just destroying the Chocolate Hills).”

Another netizen from Cebu, Jerome Chavez, said that the resort was an “eyesore” and tagged the Department of Tourism on the viral video.

Their concerns have already reached the legislative branch.

Senator Nancy Binay called out the resort and the government agencies that allowed its development in the protected zone.

She said that the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) approved the proposal for the development and issued a resolution that endorsed its construction within the Chocolate Hills protected zone in the past two years.

“We want the DENR, PAMB, Bohol Environment Management Office, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, and the local government units to explain as to why even with Chocolate Hills’ protected status, construction permits continue to be granted,” Binay added. –

Wenilyn Sabalo is a community journalist currently affiliated with SunStar Cebu and is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow of Rappler for 2023-2024.

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Another controversy for the Senate to investigate. Those who are involved should be prepared to withstand grandstanding and smart shaming Senators. Our Senators are very good in immediately discovering anomalies except for the delay in the case of the “Appointed Son of God.”

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