Pro-environment group calls for demolition of viral Chocolate Hills resort

John Sitchon

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Pro-environment group calls for demolition of viral Chocolate Hills resort

CLOSED. The controversial Captain's Peak Resort has shut down on Thursday, March 14.

Official Facebook Page of DILG Sec Benhur Abalos

A statement of Tagbilaran Baywatch calls for the 'permanent closure and demolition and/or removal of all structures of Captain’s Peak Resort within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument'

CEBU, Philippines – Advocates of the group Tagbilaran Baywatch in Bohol said that government resolutions that endorsed the construction of the controversial Captain’s Peak Resort violated environmental laws and thus should be revoked, and the structures of the erring facility demolished and removed.

In a position paper prepared by lawyer Esther Gertrude Biliran and Leah Wilfreda Chavez, Tagbilaran Baywatch called out the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) for its resolutions which allowed the resort to develop within the area of the Chocolate Hills in Sagbayan town, Bohol.

The resolutions mentioned were PAMB Resolution No. 1, s. 2018 and PAMB Resolution No. 21, s. 2022.

Because these two resolutions “were issued in favor of Captain’s Peak… without any legal basis” and violated the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument status as a protected area, the environment advocacy group called for “permanent closure and removal” of all illegal structures at the Sagbayan area.

Tagbilaran Baywatch added: “We call on the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), PAMB, and/or Sagbayan LGU to initiate legal actions to cause the removal or transfer of the structures of the resort.”

Earlier, officials like Bohol 3rd District Representative Alexie Tutor also called for the demolition of the structures. In a statement on March 13, she said that the resort should not have been allowed to be built at the site in the first place.

“PAMB Resolution No. 1 invoked in the WHEREAS clause Presidential Proclamation No. 333 creating the protected area, and, at the same time, required that the function hall and all other infrastructure should be erected and/or constructed within the 20% area from the base of the hill which is considered as the multiple use zone,” said the statement of Tagbilaran Baywatch.

Under the proclamation, the land within 20 meters from the baseline of every hill outward is considered part of the CHNM and serves as a drawback or buffer zone for the protected area.

“The PAMB resolution, therefore, required Captain’s Peak Resort to construct its building and other infrastructure within the hill itself from the base of the hill upward to 20% thereof. This PAMB resolution grossly violated its invoked Presidential Proclamation No. 333,” the position paper read.

The environmentalists noted that the second resolution did not include again the no-build zone within the hill and the buffer zone 20 meters from the baseline of the hill outward.

“This 20-meter drawback/buffer zone from the baseline outward was recognized by Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018,” the statement said.

Under section 22 of the E-NIPAS Act, all property and private rights within the protected area and its buffer zones already existing and/or vested upon the effectivity of this act are protected and respected in accordance with existing laws.

Tagbilaran Baywatch said that the PAMB should revoke the two resolutions.

“Tagbilaran Baywatch, therefore, supports the call of Senator Nancy Binay and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives to ask the DENR-PAMB to explain why it allowed Captain Peak’s Resort to use at least a 20 percent portion of the Chocolate Hills in its resolution,” they said.

Demanding accountability

In the same position paper, the Tagbilaran Baywatch also called for the termination and prosecution of negligent government officials that allowed the construction of the resort.

On Thursday, March 21, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos said in a press conference that only a barangay captain served as the chairperson of PAMB when it issued PAMB Resolution No. 1, s. 2018.

In a video posted on the official’s Facebook page, Abalos can be quoted saying, “Ang nag-chair ay isang barangay captain kaya naipasa itong tungkol sa Captain’s Peak (The person who chaired was a barangay captain that’s why the Captain’s Peak resolution was passed).”

Through copies of the resolutions acquired by Rappler, it found out that Tito Ancog, a barangay captain of Canmano at the time, presided over the meeting for the PAMB Resolution No. 1, s. 2018 on February 15, 2018.

However, the 2018 resolution was prepared by PAMB Secretariat Lorna Fernandez, attested by City Environment and Natural Resources officer Laurentino Bautista, and concurred by then-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Central Visayas Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales. 

The second meeting for the 2022 resolution was also presided by Ancog. The resolution was still prepared by Fernandez but was now reviewed by Provincial Environment and Natural Resources officer Ariel Rica.

DENR Central Visayas Regional Executive Director Paquito D. Melicor Jr. concurred and signed on the 2022 resolution on July 14, 2022.

In both resolutions, the DENR Central Visayas directors were each indicated as the PAMB Chairman.

The Tagbilaran Baywatch insisted that there should be a payment of damages to the owner of Captain’s Peak Resort by the government or erring government officials for losses suffered by the resort owner. 

“These officials allowed the owner to construct and operate the resort which turned out to be illegal,” their position paper read.

As of Tuesday, March 19, the Office of the Ombudsman has begun a probe into the controversy. –

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