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News & Events 2

Choco Hills now Charter Member of World Famous Mountains Assn.

NOW it can be told – the Chocolate Hills are now a charter member of the Association for the World Famous Mountains (AWFM). This after Gov. Erico Aumentado signed the articles of the AWFM during the 1st World Famous Mountains Conference held in Mount Lushan in Jiujiang City , Jiangxi province, China. Mt. Lushan , with its many villas built by “foreigners” around the start of the 19th century in the European and Western styles, is China ‘s summer capital. Each villa has its distinct history – told to present transients and tourists by their guides, or by framed captioned pictures on the hallway walls. Each villa, it turns out is the former residence of a top ranking official

The temperature in the mountain is easily a good 10 degrees lower than the already cold plains. Its legendary mists that can crawl up around a person even in daytime, the thick fog that is any pilot’s bane and the very crisp autumn air definitely would send especially those raised in warmer climes scampering indoors for “safety.” In autumn, the air can still be chilly even when the sun is up and bright. The near-freezing temperatures did not keep Aumentado indoors for long however. Arriving at 2 a.m. Tuesday at the villa after three airplane rides and land travel of over 200 kilometers just to reach Lushan all the way from Tagbilaran City, he was already up and about for the morning opening program, PowerPoint presentations on their mountains by the participants and unveiling of the mountains’ semi-permanent replicas at the botanical garden.

The Chocolate Hills may be the “most baby” of the mountains – some like Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest point in Africa, rises to over 5,800 meters above sea level while the Araripe Geopark in Brazil boasts of a 25-million-year history reckoned from dating well-preserved fossils found in the area. In contrast, the governor’s presentation stated that the two mounds in Carmen town on which the Chocolate Hills Resort Complex rises are only over 500 meters from the sea level. He added that Dr. Eric Vosh, a German scientist-geologist who had studied the hills extensively had discovered a 1.5-meter diameter giant clam therein of which he chipped off a part – that he returned later – for carbon dating in Germany . From that specimen he concluded that the hills were formed around three million years ago.

Bohol and Jiangxi are already “sister provinces” after Aumentado and former Gov. Huang Zhiquan signed an agreement of friendly relations on May 8, 2006 in Nanchang City . President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and then secretary of the Communist Party of China Jiangxi Provincial Committee and chair of the Standing Committee of the Jiangxi Provincial People’s Congress and now Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu witnessed the event. The agreement gave rise to the “sister-mountain” relationship of gigantic Lushan and the Chocolate Hills – and earned for the latter the invitation to attend the 1st World-Famous Mountains Conference. Aside from Mt. Lushan , the Chocolate Hills, Araripe and Kilimanjaro, the charter members or “initiators” across five continents are Mount Gambier of Australia , Mount Hood of USA, Table Mountain of South Africa, Nature Park Eisenwurzen or the Alps in Austria , Bergstasse Odenwald Global Geopark in Germany , Gaina Mountain and Covasna Mountain both in Romania and Mount Tai of China

The non-government, non-profit, loose, social and friendly organization’s permanent headquarters is Lushan. The members shall endeavor to exchange coordination and cooperation as well as platform for common issues like resources protection, tourism development and services for cooperation in tourism, environment, culture and education among members and future members. The members agreed to keep in touch, share information, advanced management technology, plan and conduct tourist product exhibition, project development and training, among others, largely through the internet, and through annual meetings.

For the association’s funds, Lushan will provide from US$300,000 to $500,000 for its first year of establishment as development fund, and will offer US$200,000 each year for operational funds. It will also encourage contributions from the members on a voluntary basis, earn income from business activities carried out by the association and earn interest also from the fund pool, among others. In his closing remarks, Director Zheng Xiang of the Mt. Lushan Administration Bureau volunteered to be the AWFM’s deputy chair. The chair and the secretary general must be persons of higher position, he said. But he designated Deputy Director Heidi Zhu of the World Heritage Office of Mt. Lushan and Dr. Gary Larsen, Forest Supervisor of Mt. Hood National Forest in the USA as deputy secretaries general. He also announced that Mt. Lushan will again host the association’s second conference next year. By JUNE S. BLANCO

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