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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Tulfo cites loopholes in law on Chocolate Hills mess

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House Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo said he found numerous loopholes or deficiencies in the law that allowed the government to be circumvented, resulting in the construction of a resort in the famous and “protected” area of Chocolate Hills in Sagbayan, Bohol.

At the hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Marañon, Tulfo pointed to the “negligence” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for allowing the resort to be built.

The committee conducted the hearing in response to House Resolution 1652 filed by Tulfo and several legislators where they the Proclamation 1037 of July 1997, declaring “the Chocolate Hills as a natural monument and restrained inappropriate exploitation there at, regardless of private rights therein, in order to maintain its natural beauty.”

The resolution also cited the protection of Chocolate Hills provided by the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Republic Act 7586), which prohibited “mutilating, defacing, or destroying objects of natural beauty, or objects of interest to cultural communities” as well as “constructing of maintaining any kind of structure, fence or enclosures, conducting any business enterprise without a permit.”

“The problem seen by this committee, headed by Chairman Marañon, was that there were loopholes, there were gray areas. The chair is right in saying that this should be DENR’s job,” Tulfo, during the hearing, said.

Tulfo noted that Captain’s Peak is situated on what is classified as “alienable and disposable land,” declared by the government since 1920s, meaning it could be sold to private individuals.

Through Proclamation 1037 during the time of former President Fidel Ramos, Tulfo recalled  Chocolate Hills was declared a “natural monument” to protect it and prohibit any structures in the area. However, during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, this was amended by Proclamation 333, which only  prohibited the construction of structures on Chocolate Hills and within 20 meters from the baseline of each hill.

“Even if they some say 1926, it is alienable, it can be sold, that area can be developed. But I could not just imagine — national heritage, tourist attraction, you’re going to put something, an eyesore, something that should not be allowed,” Tulfo said.

Dapat kinorect ng secretary ng DENR noon si dating Pangulong Ramos. Nasa kamay nila ito to correct it. Pero hindi lang kinorect. So, may naging problema. Kaya nga

ngayon, itong committee ngayon, we heard a lot already. We will do something about it,” Tulfo added.

(The former DENR secretary should have corrected former President Ramos. The person(s) in charge of it should have rectified what was wrong. But just not corrected. So, there was a problem. That’s why today, this committee today, we heard a lot already. We in Congress will do something about it it)

Marañon and Kabataan partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel agreed, stating that based on their investigation, the DENR was “significantly at fault” for allowing the construction of the controversial resort despite the legal prohibitions.

“Well, you heard earlier during the discussions that somehow DENR also was remiss on their job. So, yes, DENR was also remiss there,” Marañon said.

According to the lawmakers, from the results of their investigation, they will make recommendations to correct any deficiencies in the law and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

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