Senators grill DENR official who ‘signed’ Captain’s Peak clearance

Senators grill DENR official who ‘signed’ Captain’s Peak clearance

/ 10:01 PM April 03, 2024

Chocolate Hills resort must be removed – Senator Nancy Binay

Aerial shot of the controversial Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort in Sagbayan, Bohol LEO UDTOHAN

MANILA, Philippines — An official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) received the criticism and vexation of senators on Wednesday for allegedly approving the permit for the establishment of a resort within the protected Chocolate Hills.

READ: Chocolate Hills resort ‘temporarily closed until further notice’


Speaking at the Senate’s Wednesday hearing, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda initially identified two individuals who allegedly signed the clearance for the establishment of Captain’s Peak — the now-viral resort in Chocolate Hills.


“For Captain’s Peak, two people signed it: Central Visayas Director at the time, Gilbert Gonzales, correct me if I’m wrong, another one is DENR Central Visayas Director Paquito Melicor,” said Legarda.

Senator Cynthia Villar, who was presiding over the hearing as chairperson of the chamber’s panel on environment, said Captain’s Peak’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) clearance was issued by Gonzales while its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) was issued by Melicor.

‘Tell us your story’

“PAMB is issued by Gonzales, so why don’t you tell us your story?” said Villar.

For his part, Gonzales admitted that he was, indeed, the Regional Executive Director of Region 7 when PAMB Resolution No. 1 was issued on February 15, 2018.

“But I’d like to explain first ma’am that when this was submitted to PAMB, this was the time when there was Presidential Proclamation 333 which declared that the flatlands of the Chocolate Hills are considered to be multiple use zones and being alienable and disposable lands,” defended Gonzales.

Villar, however, countered Gonzales’ remarks, pointing out that the purpose of the Presidential Proclamation was in line with the government’s bid to develop the protected area as an agricultural land.


“There’s nothing wrong with people planting near the protected area, but what you did was to establish resorts and businesses in the protected area — that’s a different story altogether,” said Villar.


Villar’s statement was backed by an irked Legarda who emphasized that it is clear under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 that “conservation and protection” of these protected areas must be prioritized.

Legarda specifically stated that above all, “biodiversity and conservation must be respected.”

READ: Most locals appeal not to close Chocolate Hills resort – Dela Rosa

Not present

Later in the hearing, it was revealed that Gonzales was actually not present in the special meeting where PAMB tackled the proposal.

Gonzales was supposed to be in the meeting being a Regional Executive Director, which means that he is also the chairperson of PAMB at the time.

The DENR official said he was on an official trip in Baguio, but he also emphasized that PAMB officials present — who were mostly barangay officials — discussed the matter thoroughly.

Responsible agency

This further irked Legarda who then asked why Gonzales greenlighted the permit despite his supposed absence from the important meeting.

“If you say I was absent then — and we will just leave it at that — I’m absent so I have nothing to do with that. No, according to the law — the implementing agency should be responsible. That is the reason why we put a PAMB,” said Legarda.

Legarda’s prodding did not budge Gonzales who then maintained that they followed the standard process in dealing with the issue at hand.

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“If you can see, I’m not the only one who signed here. It went through the process. I’m not saying that we just signed it with our eyes closed. This went through a process and we recognize the decision of the PAMB in this particular [matter],” said Gonzales.

TAGS: Captain’s Peak Resort, Chocolate Hills resort, Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, PAMB

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