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Chocolate Hills resort announces temporary shut down

The controversial resort in the Chocolate Hills protected area in Bohol announced its temporary closure late Wednesday evening amid flak on social media and imminent government action regarding its operations.

"To our valued guests. This is to inform you that our resort is temporarily closed until further notice. Sorry, for the inconvenien[ce]," Captain's Peak Garden and Resort said on its Facebook profile and cover photos.

Videos and images of the resort amenities, including swimming pools, slides, and cabanas, surrounded by the famed Chocolate Hills were still available on the resort's account as of posting time.

Based on its introduction on Facebook, the Captain's Peak Garden and Resort is a "tourist destination located in the midst of the toweringthe [sic] chocolate hills in the area. It is located at Libertad Norte, Sagbayan, Bohol. You can see the closer look of the scenic chocolate hills."

The same message about the temporary closure was carried by Facebook accounts with similar names and content.

GMA News Online has requested comment from the resort regarding issues raised about its construction and permit to operate.

The resort's move comes a day after Senator Nancy Binay, chairperson of the Senate committee on tourism, said an investigation in the Upper Chamber would be sought regarding the reported illegal structures within the vicinity of Chocolate Hills.

Binay had said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), other state agencies, and local government units should explain the granting of construction permits in the protected area.

Also on Wednesday, the DENR said the Office of the Central Visayas regional executive director issued a memorandum on March 13 directing the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) to inspect Captain's Peak for its compliance with its temporary closure order.

The DENR said it had issued a temporary closure order in September 2023 and a violation notice in January 2024 against the establishment.

The department said Captain's Peak has been operating without an environmental clearance certificate (ECC).

However, the local government of Sagbayan, Bohol told Unang Balita on Thursday morning that it has yet to receive the DENR temporary closure order, adding that the resort's application for renewal of business operations would have been declined if the former was duly informed about it.

For its part, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said its Central Visayas office has been coordinating with the Bohol provincial government since August 2023 regarding its concerns about the resort.

The Chocolate Hills and the surrounding areas were designated as a National Geological Monument and Protected Landscape by Proclamation 1037 on July 1, 1997 in recognition of the "unique geological formations and the importance of covering this wonder for future generations."

Also, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument as part of its prestigious World Heritage List. — VDV, GMA Integrated News