Locals and environment advocates appealed for immediate action from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) after a quarry company had fenced off approximately 500 hectares (ha) of Masungi Georeserve’s 2,000-ha forestland that was being prepared for reforestation.
According to an Inquirer report, a park ranger roaming around the privately managed conservation area in Baras, Rizal discovered on Wednesday, February 28, a 100-meter barbed wire fence that effectively barred their team from cleaning a new area for forestation.
Masungi Georeserve Trustee and Advocacy Officer Billie Dumaliang further narrated that more men arrived the following day, despite failure to present pertinent permits or documents, to reinforce the dence, stating that they were merely following orders.
The local government of Baras clarified that building fences and even the mere measuring of land requires the necessary permission from the municipality.
“Building houses, fences, and any structure, and even measuring the land requires the necessary permission from the local government,” the local government stated in a Manila Bulletin report.
Furthermore, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Atty. Wilfredo Moncano said that, to his knowledge, there were no quarrying permits issued for Masungi.
It was also reported that employees of the quarry company had threatened Masungi Georeserve’s workers that they would mobilize members of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP’s) Special Action Force (SAF) to continue to isolate the area.
“This move by the quarry company will cut us off from reforesting some 500 hectares of heavily degraded land in the northwest portion of the project site. Without access to this site, we will not be able to do our mandate of rewilding the ecosystem here,” Dumaliang expressed.
According to a Rappler report, the area is part of the Upper Marikina Watershed and the proposed Masungi Strict Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary where extractive activities are banned.
Per Department Order (DO) 1993-33 from the DENR, extractive industries, particularly mining and quarrying, are prohibited within its vicinity.
“The area is declared closed to mining location, exploration, development, and exploitation, and other activities which might adversely affect the habitat and the ecological balance in the area,” the DO stated in the report.
The MGB had also classified the area as a geohazard zone.
According to the Inquirer report, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation has sent an “urgent appeal for help” to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday, February 28, seeking his action to stop the fencing. However, Dumaliang expressed that the agency had yet to act on the matter.
“We’re hoping for decisive action from the DENR,” Dumaliang expressed, further noting that if the quarrying operations continue, the project would surely fail.
Masungi Georeserve expressed in the Rappler report that reforestation is urgently needed as the community is already losing water. Landslides and flash floods are also imminent. Thus, the nature reserve aims to restore 3,000 ha of degraded land with the help of the public, private, and civil society.
#SaveMasungi Online Petition
In related news, groups and environmental advocates of the Save Masungi Movement initiated an online petition urging President Rodrigo Duterte and DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to completely halt quarrying activities and the fencing operations in the georeserve.
“You cannot have reforestation on one side and then meters after, there are quarrying activities. It has to be the whole ecosystem that’s really protected. If sa Masungi magawa nila ‘to, they can do it anywhere, where there’s even less or no organization protecting it,” Dumaliang told Rappler.
Through the petition, Save Masungi Movement hopes for immediate action from President Duterte and the DENR to stop the isolating activities so reforestation efforts may resume.
“This is their chance to show they are sincere in making sure that the forests are protected, that reforestation projects like these are prioritized by the government. We are hoping for their possible and immediate action,” Dumaliang said.