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Press Release - Opening Statement of Sen.Cynthia Villar during the hearing on the Exploitation of Chocolate Hills Natural Monument and other Protected Areas

Defacement or Exploitation of the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument and other Protected Areas (such as the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape, Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape, and the Mount Apo Natural Park)

Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change
Joint with the
Committee on Local Government
3 April 2024 (Wednesday), 10:00 a.m.
Sen. Pecson Room, 2/F Right Wing, Senate

Isang maka-kalikasang umaga sa inyong lahat.

The committee's hearing today is prompted by the public uproar over the viral image of resort facilities, including cottages, slides, and what appears to be an Olympic-sized swimming pool, built at the foot of three of our cherished Chocolate Hills in Bohol Province. Indeed, 'The picture says it all.' It exposes the stark defacement and desecration of our national treasure. The conclusion was immediate and clear. After all, the approximately 1,776 unique conical mounds that comprise the Chocolate Hills are not merely a tourist attraction; they stand as a UNESCO-recognized Natural Monument since 1988, form part of the Philippines' first Global Geopark as designated by UNESCO in 2023, and are collectively considered protected area under the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018.

In quick response, Senators Binay, Villanueva, Legarda, and myself have each filed resolutions that reflect a shared urgency to address the issue:

Senate Resolution No. 967, filed by Sen. Binay, who chairs the Senate Committee on Tourism, calls for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the reported construction of structures within the vicinity of the Chocolate Hills by Captain's Peak Garden and Resort in Sagbayan, Bohol and by Bud-Agta Resort in Carmen, Bohol, with the end goal of preserving Chocolate Hills as a protected area and its status as a major tourist attraction.

Resolution No. 970, filed by Senator Joel Villanueva, also seeks an inquiry on the construction of tourist resorts in close proximity to the Chocolate Hills. It mentions that the Expanded NIPAS Act prohibits defacing, or damaging any natural formation, or scenic value within protected areas; it also raises a question on the PAMB policy of allowing the use or development