Bohol gove, 68 others suspended over Chocolate Hills fiasco

Ombudsman suspends Bohol gov, 68 others over Chocolate Hills fiasco

A surprised Aumentado steps aside on Tuesday, says its ‘business as usual’ at the provincial capitol
By: - Correspondent / @leoudtohanINQ
/ 04:35 AM May 29, 2024

Erico Aristotle Aumentado Bohol Governor

Bohol Gov. Erico Aristotle Aumentado —Leo Udtohan

TAGBILARAN CITY, BOHOL, Philippines — Bohol Gov. Erico Aristotle Aumentado and 68 other public officials, including town mayors and local heads of national agencies, have been placed under preventive suspension by the Ombudsman for six months over the construction of a controversial resort near the famous Chocolate Hills.

In an order dated May 22 and released on Tuesday, the antigraft office said the operation of the controversial Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort at Barangay Canmano in Sagbayan town was allowed even without the required environmental impact assessment, environmental compliance certificate and special use agreement in protected areas from the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).


READ: Probe sought on resort amid Chocolate Hills


“The respondents acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, gross inexcusable negligence and committed gross violations of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 (Nipas Act of 1992) and Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 (E-Nipas Act of 2018) when they remained adamant and continuously tolerated the operation and expansion of Captain’s Peak despite its lack of environmental clearances and permits,” it said.

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

A first

The Ombudsman said the resort was issued with a mayor, business, building and locational permits for the years 2020 to 2024, despite the repeated failure to secure the permits and clearances from the DENR.

The respondents are facing investigation for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Sought for comment, Aumentado, 46, said it was his first time to get suspended as a government official since he was elected as representative of Bohol’s second district in 2013 until he became governor in 2022.

He said he received the orders from the Ombudsman on Tuesday afternoon.


“I did not expect this. But we can’t do anything about it. We have to comply with the order. We will face this. God knows what is inside my heart,” the governor told employees of the Capitol.

“My request is for Capitol employees to continue working. Remain clean in serving the people. It’s business as usual in the Capitol,” he added.

Aumentado said the Provincial Government of Bohol has no direct participation in the issuance of permits or licenses for the operation of Captain’s Peak Resort.

Vice Gov. Dionisio Victor Balite served as Bohol governor starting Tuesday.

Aside from Aumentado, also suspended were Mayors Restituto Suarez III (Sagbayan), Antonino Jumawid (Batuan), Elizabeth Mandin-Pace (Catigbian), Eugeniano Ibarra (Clarin), Norman Palacio (Bilar), Michael Doria (Sierra Bullones), Dionisio Neil Balite (Valencia) and Conchita Toribio-Delos Reyes (Carmen).

Former mayors who were impleaded in the case were former Mayors Manuel Jayectin (Bilar), Simplicio Maestrado Jr. (Sierra Bullones), Maria Katrina Lim (Valencia), Calixto Garcia (Valencia), Ricardo Toribio (Carmen), and Bilar Vice Mayor Ranulfo Maligmat.

Also suspended were Ma. Victoria Abrera, regional director of DENR-Environment Management Bureau; Paquito Melicor; DENR regional executive director; and Gilbert Gonzales, regional director of DENR-Central Visayas; Eugene Cabrera, regional director of the Office Civil Defense; and Joel Elumba, regional director of Department of Agriculture – Central Visayas, as well as some local village captains in Bilar, Carmen, Sagbayan, Batuan, Bilar, Dagohoy and Clarin.

Geological wonder

The Chocolate Hills, a geological wonder, consist of some 1,776 conical shapes and sizes spread over the towns of Bilar, Carmen, Batuan, Sierra Bullones, Sagbayan and other towns.

According to the DENR, they’re named and protected under the Nipas Act, or Republic Act No. 7586, as amended by Republic Act No. 11038.

Chocolate Hills Natural Monument is one of the 17 protected areas.

Over the years, there were at least 500 establishments constructed within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument.

Sagbayan Peak in Sagbayan was opened in 2003 and has a viewing deck, a restaurant, a butterfly dome, a little amusement park, a zipline and a swimming pool.

In 2018, Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort was established at Barangay Canmano in Sagbayan town. It has a pool, slides and cottages nestled at the foot of several hills.

In Carmen town, the Chocolate Hills Complex in Barangay Buenos Aires was established in the 1970s. This is the main viewing point for the Chocolate Hills, which is run by the municipal government.

The Chocolate Hills, the tourism signature of Bohol, is recognized as the first Global Geopark of Unesco.

The hills are composed of 1,776 limestone mounds surrounding the island’s interior plains.

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In 1997, then President Fidel Ramos, through Presidential Decree No. 1037, declared the Chocolate Hills as a natural monument, ensuring its protection. —with a report from Dempsey Reyes

TAGS: Bohol, Captain’s Peak Resort, Ombudsman

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