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Chocolate Hills in Bohol a Tourism Jewel

Press Release: In tune with his advocacy to protect and preserve the country's natural wonders and the environment in general, Rep. Erico B. Aumentado (2nd district, Bohol) has filed a bill in Congress seeking the implementation of stiffer penalties to entities or individuals that would cause the pillage, destruction and defacement to any of the world renowned Chocolate Hills of Bohol. 

Fuelled by the destruction of several hills in the towns of Carmen and Sagbayan, Bohol, before his nine-year governorship, the solon pressed for the filing of House Bill 6137, otherwise known as the Chocolate Hills Protection Act of 2012 described as " AN ACT DECLARING THE CHOCOLATE HILLS AS NATIONAL PATRIMONY, NATURAL HERITAGE PARK AND GEOLOGICAL MONUMENTS, PENALIZING THEIR PILLAGE, DESTRUCTION AND DEFACEMENT, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES".

When enacted into law, all persons whether natural or juridical who will violate the Act, shall upon conviction be meted with imprisonment ranging from six to twenty years with corresponding fine ranging from P60,000 up to P200,000.

Aumentado reiterated that enforcing stiffer penalties shall prevent further destruction to the iconic hills brought about by quarrying, hauling of limestone, rocks, soil and surfacing materials or for backfilling for construction purposes.

Citing a German scientist's study, the lawmaker explained that the Chocolate Hills were created over three million years ago - when Bohol was under seawaters – by undersea currents and tidal action which explains some of the hills perfect cone and others in haycock formation.

The hills are chocolate brown during summer and verdant green on rainy days. Thus, maintenance pruning of trees shall be allowed to preserve the hills brown color during summer as the hills unique and distinctive landmark, the solon further noted.

Aside from its exceptional characteristics, scientific importance, uniqueness, relevance to our country's history and heritage, importance in the tourism industry as a major tourist attraction in the country and high scenic value, the solon said, the long period of time mother nature took to form the majestic hills is another compelling reason to enact laws that will preserve and protect the Chocolate Hills.

During a recent audience between Aumentado and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Ramon Paje, touching on the issue of the destruction of some of the hills before, they echoed the same sentiments for the need to prevent any damage to the hills. According to the solon, the DENR shall issue the implementing rules and regulations of this Act within 60 days from its enactment into law.

Incidentally, a similar bill is also filed at the Philippine Senate by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

In the 11th Congress, Aumentado, with seven other congressmen, filed House Bill 9442, covering the same subject on the Chocolate Hills to institutionalize also Pres. Fidel Ramos proclamation declaring the iconic hills as national geological monuments.

Noting the increased influx of tourist in the province of Bohol due to the discovery and establishment of new tourist attractions in the area, the veteran solon strongly considers the 1,268 chocolate hills in the towns of Carmen, Sagbayan, and Batuan as the crown jewels of Bohol's tourism.

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