Masungi foundation seeks Palace intervention

OASIS The Masungi Georeserve Foundation is keeping watch over this vast protected area in Rizal province. —Photo courtesy of Masungi Georeserve Foundation

MANILA, Philippines — The Masungi Georeserve Foundation has asked Malacañang to intervene in the ongoing controversy at the protected area amid what they called were “dismissive” responses from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine National Police.

Over the weekend, more than 30 armed men reportedly belonging to Sinagtala Security Agency Services encamped along Kilometer 48 of the Marikina-Infanta Highway near the protected area.ADVERTISEMENT

Ann Dumaliang, a trustee and cofounder of the Masungi foundation, said the road was within the conservation area.

Dumaliang said that portion of the road was between the Kaliwa Watershed and the Marikina Watershed, both of which are part of the protected and reforested area being conserved by the foundation under a 2017 agreement with the government.

The armed men, whose firearms were seized by the police, had allegedly intended to take over huge portions of land inside the conservation area.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Dumaliang complained that no arrests were made by the police despite the confiscation of around 15 firearms from the armed men who as of Tuesday “remain encamped” on Km. 48.

“There are many things that can be done by the government. All of the criminal cases that can be filed against these people, they should exhaust all possible remedies and explore all of them because there are so many ways,” she said, reiterating that arrests should be made by authorities.

She also lamented how the provincial police in Rizal downplayed the incident, only describing the presence of armed men as a “land dispute.”

This prompted her and the rest of the foundation to appoint a project manager mainly tasked to oversee the situation at the protected area.

“This is what will stop all of these from happening and this will allow us to move forward,” Dumaliang stressed. “The idea has always been to establish a system so that we can restore the watershed and other critical areas in record time.”

The project manager would also help the foundation “resolve the persistent challenges in conserving Masungi landscape in a sustainable manner,” she added.ADVERTISEMENT

She also maintained that the presence of armed men, just over a kilometer away from the area, was an “attempt to occupy lands through the use of threat and intimidation.”

The presence of these men, Dumaliang stressed, was already a violation of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992. The law imposed penalties and gave “more teeth” to the enforcement of environmental laws.

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