MANILA, Philippines – Hoping to make their voices heard, groups and environmental advocates of the Save Masungi Movement started an online petition urging President Rodrigo Duterte and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to stop quarrying activities in the georeserve.
According to Masungi Georeserve Trustee and Advocacy Officer Billie Dumaliang, quarrying company Rapid City started fencing off portions of the site using barbed wire last February 26, hindering reforestation efforts at Masungi Georeserve in Rizal.
The fenced-off area covers some 500 hectares of degraded land around the georeserve, halting the reforestation work being done in the area as part of the Masungi Geopark Project that was approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2017.
The DENR tasked Masungi through the reforestation initiative to restore 3,000 hectares of degraded land in the area with the help of the public. The initiative is self-financed by the sustainable and low-volume tourism being implemented in the georeserve.
“500 hectares is about 1/4 of the reforestation site, and it’s the first quarter that we need to reforest because it’s the one nearest to us,” added Dumaliang.
Aside from cutting off access to Masungi’s reforestation efforts, Dumaliang said the fencing operations are also encroaching part of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape and the proposed Masungi Strict Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.
These are both protected areas where destructive and extractive activities including mining and quarrying are strictly prohibited. These are also classified by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau as a geohazard zone.
In the online petition, the Save Masungi Movement called on Duterte and the DENR to stop the fencing operations and evict the quarrying company from Masungi and the larger Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.
Five days since fencing operations began, Masungi Georeserve has yet to receive an order from the DENR to reinforce and implement the law that bans quarrying in the area.
So far, the central office of the DENR only received Masungi Georeserve’s urgent appeal for help on Saturday, February 29.
Dumaliang emphasized the importance of the reforestation efforts in Masungi, an area that continually struggles with diminishing water supply due to unabated cutting of trees and land degradation.
“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,” she told Rappler.
Dumaliang said the reforestation efforts in the area are important to prevent catastrophic landslides and flashfloods like those brought by Typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces in 2009.
“If the quarry continues, the project will fail. These mountains are where the landslides and the floods always originate from because they’re right beside the highway and they’re some of the remaining mountains near Manila,” she added.
Dumaliang stressed the need to make a stand and act on the matter, especially if there are threats to established conservation sites like Masungi.
“If sa Masungi magawa nila ‘to (the quarrying company can do this in Masungi), they can do it anywhere, where there’s even less or no organization protecting it,” she said.
Masungi Georeserve said that over 47,000 native trees have been planted and nurtured by thousands of volunteers, visitors, and local forest rangers in the area, while over 100 locals working in conservation have been supported with green and long-term livelihoods through the initiative. (READ: A first-timer’s guide to Masungi Georeserve, where adventure awaits)
Formerly a barren wasteland due to illegal logging and other land speculation practices, the Masungi Georeserve’s ecosystem was successfully restored after more than 20 years of dedicated conservation work against many different threats, including land-grabbing in the area.
It’s now the home of magnificent limestone formations, as well as the famous Sapot, a web-like platform that hangs above one of Masungi’s rock formations.
Through the petition, Save Masungi Movement hopes for immediate action from Duterte and the DENR to stop the quarrying activities so they can continue their reforestation efforts.
“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. – Rappler.com
If you want to help save Masungi Georeserve from quarrying, sign the petition here.