New resort in the Philippines sparks heated debate
02.04.2024 Philippines Bohol Island   10230
New resort in the Philippines sparks heated debate

Situated among the lush rolling hills of the Philippines' famous Chocolate Hills, Captain's Peak Garden and Resort offered travelers scenery that few hotels could rival.

But now the resort is temporarily closed after public outcry over what one lawmaker called "a blatant abuse of our natural resources" and the national Senate debates whether to investigate how it came to be built in a protected, beautiful location.

And it has become a lightning rod for anger as the country once again tries to balance a thriving tourism industry with protecting its environmental wonders.

In the heart of the central island province, the Chocolate Hills are more than 1,700 conical limestone peaks stretching as far as the eye can see. The grass-covered karst hills turn brown during the dry season and resemble mounds of chocolate.

According to UNESCO, which included the Chocolate Hills in its tentative list of World Heritage status, there is only one similar hill configuration known in the world - on Indonesian Java.

The hills were declared a protected area by then Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos in 1997, meaning authorities are required by law to “protect and maintain their natural beauty and provide mechanisms curbing undue exploitation."

But images of the new hill resort have sparked anger and fueled debate over whether the Southeast Asian country is doing enough to protect the environment.

The backlash began earlier this month when a local tourism influencer posted a promotional video for Captain's Peak Garden and Resort on social media.

Aerial views of the resort's glistening pool and colorful cottages set on the idyllic background, causing social media users to question why its owners were allowed to build on a national geological monument.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) intervened on March 13, ordering the resort to be temporarily closed.

Manila lawmakers are now demanding answers about how the resort was built.

“This is a blatant abuse of our natural resources. The question is how it was built and who approved it in an area that we are supposed to protect,” House Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo said Monday as he introduced a resolution calling for an investigation into the resort.

“Construction of the resort raises serious concerns regarding possible circumvention of building, business and environmental permitting, certification or license laws and regulations under the guise of tourism economic development,” the resolution states.

Captain's Peak Garden and Resort posted a redacted version of its business permit on Facebook, which it said is "evidence of our commitment to operating responsibly and in accordance with local regulations."

“Our resort plans have been thoroughly vetted and have received the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities,” it said in a separate statement. “We comply with all environmental regulations and have taken measures to minimize our environmental footprint throughout the development process.”


Read also: Publication of tourist offers on the portal TURY.CLUB