DENR to work with ombudsman after Bohol officials’ suspension

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
DENR to work with ombudsman after Bohol officials� suspension
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will work closely with the Office of the Ombudsman following the preventive suspension of Bohol Gov. Aris Aumentado and 68 other local officials for six months without pay in connection with the investigation into the construction of Captain’s Peak Resort at the foot of Chocolate Hills.

DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga gave the assurance yesterday.

“Upholding integrity and accountability in environmental governance is paramount to our mission of protecting, conserving and regenerating our natural heritage. We take these matters seriously and are committed to ensuring that those responsible for any violation, whether intentionally or inadvertently, are held accountable,” Loyzaga said.

In its complaint, the ombudsman field investigation office (FIO) charged the public respondents with “grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service relative to the construction, operation and expansion of Captain’s Peak Resort in Canmano, Sagbayan, Bohol, an establishment nestled in the middle of the iconic Chocolate Hills National Monument (CHNM), a declared protected in Bohol.”

“Likewise, the Department is actively supporting and advocating for policy and legislative reforms that strike a balance between conservation efforts, the need for sustainable livelihoods and the promotion of responsible ecotourism in protected areas,” Loyzaga added.

Aside from Aumentado, also ordered preventively suspended were chief executives of several towns in Bohol, namely: Sagbayan mayor Restituto Suarez III, Batuan mayor Antonino Jumawid, Catigbian mayor Elizabeth Pace, Clarin mayor Eugenio Ibarra, Bilar mayor Norman Palacio, former Bilar mayor Manuel Jayectin, Bilar vice mayor Ranulfo Maligmat, Sierra Bullones mayor Michael Doria, Sierra Bullones vice-mayor Simplico Maestrado Jr., Valencia mayor Dionisio Neil Balite, Carmen mayor Conchita Delos Reyes and former Carmen mayor Ricardo Toribio.

Also ordered suspended were DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) regional director Ma. Victoria Abrera and DENR Region 7 Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) regional director Gilbert Gonzales.

Likewise ordered suspended were several barangay officials as well as regional officials of the Office of the Civil Defense, Department of Science and Technology and Department of Agriculture.

The office of Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. was tasked to implement the suspension order.

The Chocolate Hills Natural Monument in Bohol is a legislated protected area, while the entire Bohol Island is also declared a UNESCO Global Geopark, the only tourism area in the country.

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