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Friday, July 26, 2024

Government should have protected Chocolate Hills at all costs—UNESCO

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UNESCO echoed the public outcry against Captain’s Peak resort that tarnished the beauty of Chocolate Hills in Bohol Island, which should have been protected by the national government at all costs due to its designation as a Global Geopark.

Dr. Ivan Anthony Henares, secretary-general of the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, relayed this message, emphasizing that places tagged as Global Geoparks are Grade I Level cultural properties under the Republic Act 11961 or the amended ‘National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.’

“And geosites included in the designation such as the Chocolate Hills should be protected by the national government,” Henares said in a statement.

The UNESCO-Philippines official noted that if the resort was constructed before August 24, 2023 when RA11961 was signed into law, prior environmental laws protecting the Chocolate Hills should be considered.

“We ask the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) of the Chocolate Hills to revisit their development guidelines for the protected area to prevent these incompatible developments from happening in the future,” Henares said.

UNESCO also encouraged the provincial government of Bohol to enact stricter policies aimed at protecting the core zone of the Chocolate Hills geosite, as well as other areas of cultural significance across the Bohol Island, by regulating developments in both public and private lands.

Bohol Gov. Erico Aris Aumentado, meanwhile, said the provincial government tried preventing the development of Captain’s Peak Resort in Sagbayan as early as September 2023—the same time that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) released its temporary closure order.

Aumentado, in his own official statement, noted that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Committee on Environment already conducted its investigation on the property and submitted its report and recommendation.

“As stewards of the province, we cannot let this go on. We have asked the DENR and the PAMB to change its policy to the point that any development within the Chocolate Hills area, which is not consistent [with] Bohol’s UNESCO designation as a Global Geopark should be disallowed,” he said. 

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