DENR on viral resort in Chocolate Hills: Temporary closure order already served

Jing Villamente

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday said that its Regional Office has already issued a temporary closure order on the controversial Chocolate Hill resort, which went viral on social media.

The DENR, in a statement, divulged that Chocolate Hills has been declared as a protected area on 1 July 1997, through Proclamation No. 1037 issued by then late President Fidel V. Ramos, designating it as a National Geological Monument and a Protected Landscape, recognizing its unique geological formations and the importance of covering this natural wonder to future generations.

It is for the same reason that the agency issued a temporary closure order on The Captain's Peak Resort last 6 September 2023 and a Notice of Violations to the project proponents on 24 January this year for operating without ECC or Environmental Compliance Certificate.

The social media post that was viewed four million times earned the ire of netizens sharing their comments like "sunod-sunod na yan hanggang mawasak na ang isa sa pinagmamalaki ng Pilipinas," commented by Aiza Carla Santos.

Jane Marasigan another netizen asked, "Bakit allowed yan?"

In the same statement, DENR said that if a land was titled prior to Proclamation No. 1037, "the rights and interests of the landowner will generally be recognized and respected."

"However, 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." These restrictions and regulations are to be detailed in the Environmental Impact Statement prior to the issuance of ECC for the project.

The agency added that through its Regional Executive Director Paquito D. Melicor, DENR has already issued a Memorandum directing the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Bohol, led by Ariel Rica, to create a team to conduct an inspection to The Captain's Peak Resort for its compliance to the temporary closure order.

The agency assured the public that it is assessing the legality of Captain's Peak Resort.