New twists on Sagbayan Choco Hills fiasco raised

By Ric Obedencio | 09:44 PM September 03, 2023

The municipality of Sagbayan has offered to restore the alleged defaced barangay road between the two Chocolate Hills in barangay Canmano located within the controversial Captain’s Peak resort development.

This developed during the environment protection committee chaired by provincial Board Member Atty. Jamie Villamor, which tackled the said issue. The said meeting was attended by Captain’s Peak resort owner, representatives of Sagbayan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), provincial legal office and tourism committee members.

“We are more than willing to restore what has been allegedly and perceived to be defacement on the chocolate hills as a result of the LGU’s effort to rehabilitate or repair the old existing barangay road as described above on the basis of a request of barangay Canmano,” municipal mayor Restituto Q. Suarez III said in his position paper submitted to and received by the committee.

The mayor further explained in his three-page position paper that the town had “no ulterior motive to deface, alter or mutilate the hills within its territorial jurisdiction” contrary to malicious newspaper report.

It was not immediately known whether the rehabilitation of the said barangay road was really a defacement or violation of existing laws and why the restoration was proposed.

The mayor said that the move to repair the said road was prompted since the town tried to reopen the tourism sites that would necessitate improving its services nd provide amenities in accordance with the mandate of the national government for economic recovery after the onslaught of the pandemic.

Another reason in said reopening of the barangay road is that the municipal government has responded to the barangay request to make repair of said road situated at the border of Canmano and Libertad Norte.

To prove that it is an existing barangay, the Suarez administration has provided the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) with the certified copy of cadastral survey No. 959-D on the lot No. 3558 with 10 meters wide. It said that the repair of the said road was only 4.5 meters wide.

The town “has just initially repaired the existing barangay road with 4.5 meters in width only by simply clearing both sides of the existing road and grubbing on it” and it does not mean that defacement of the hills, the mayor said.

Another questionable angle of the controversy is that the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), that governs the protected Chocolate Hills, showed no accurate and definite basis when it allowed the Captain’s Peak resort to utilize the 20% of the chocolate hills, BM Villamor said in an interview.

She said she asked PAMB and the DENR thru PENRO Ariel Rica, who attended the committee meeting last week, what is their basis in assigning the resort to use the 20% of the hills where two water slides to the swimming pools and cottages built at the foot of the hills were evident during the SP ocular inspection.

Villamor said PAMB and DENR cannot show the basis or figures as if “banabana’ lang” (imagined).

She said that this would push SP to craft legislative measures to lay down the groundwork for such guidelines and forming the Technical Working Group for the purpose of protecting the world-renowned chocolate hills.

Another measure she’s planning to propose is make an Ordinance defining terms, such as “defacement” and other related terms in determining what is proper in the protecting and conserving the hills.

“The hills should not be altered nor defaced and extraction is strictly prohibited” was one of the provisions of Resolution No. 01, series of 2018, executed by PAMB), governing the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument, for the Captain’s Peak Garden Eco-park Tourism resort in sad barangay.

The board members initially found that the resort has built some cottages and two water slides for a swimming pool at the feet or sides of at least three (3) hills.

The joint committees of environment and tourism chaired by Board Member Atty. Jamie Villamaor and BM Tita V. Baja, respectively, initially discovered this during their ocular inspection of the resort as part of their investigation in aid of legislation following the privilege speech of BM Nathaniel Binlod. Binlod reacted to the published article on the The Freeman over the issue. (rvo)

About the author: Ric Obedencio is a news veteran in Bohol. He is the editor of the Bohol Sunday Post and correspondent of the Philippine Star.

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