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DENR removes barbed wire blocking reforestation site in Masungi Georeserve

Samantha Bagayas
DENR removes barbed wire blocking reforestation site in Masungi Georeserve
Masungi Georeserve celebrates the development, calling it the 'best World Wildlife Day gift for nature'

MANILA, Philippines– The Masungi Georeserve is finally free from the clutches of a quarry company after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) removed barbed wire blocking a reforestation site in the area on World Wildlife Day, March 3.

Quarry company Rapid City first started setting up a barbed wire fence around 500 hectares of heavily degraded land in Masungi Georeserve on February 26, hindering reforestation efforts.

Since 2017, DENR has tasked Masungi Georeserve to restore 3,000 hectares of degraded land in the area with the help of the public.

With the quarrying company closing off around a quarter of the site, the georeserve will struggle to continue and realize the vision of its reforestation efforts.

Years of deforestation and land degradation had denuded the area, exacerbating natural disasters such as Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, which unleashed unprecedented flash floods that devastated parts of Metro Manila, particularly in the Marikina Valley, and killed hundreds of people.

If we do not restore these forests, we will not only lose water supply, but risk devastating floods and landslides like those we saw in Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 in Marikina, the namesake city of the watershed, and the rest of Metro Manila,” the Save Masungi Movement said.

Since it began its work, the foundation has planted more than 47,000 native trees with the help of volunteers and visitors, said Billie Dumaliang, Masungi Georeserve Trustee and Advocacy Officer.

Dumaliang added that the fencing operations encroached on part of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape and the proposed Masungi Strict Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary. 

Destructive and extractive activities including mining and quarrying are strictly prohibited in these protected areas. (READ: Despite legal mandate, Masungi Georeserve struggles to defend reforestation project)

This sparked an online petition of the Save Masungi Movement urging President Rodrigo Duterte and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to stop the fencing operations and evict the company from the area.

Six days after the fencing began in Masungi Georeserve, Cimatu and DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda visited the site on Tuesday, March 3, to check reports of a quarry company encroaching on the reforestation site.

This led to the removal and confiscation of the quarry company’s barbed wire around a portion of Masungi Georeserve.

Cimatu also ordered the immediate closure of the quarry and the cancellation of the multiple Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) issued in the protected area and reforestation site.

According to the Save Masungi Movement, the DENR said there were 3 MPSAs issued to quarry companies inside the protected and conserved areas.

Masungi Georeserve celebrated the closure of the quarry and the removal of the barbed wire fence, calling it the “best World Wildlife Day gift for nature.”

“We look forward to decisive government action against other equally serious challenges in implementing the project, including professional squatters, treasure hunters and land trafficking…. We remain committed to protect Masungi and hope this experience inspires others to continue the fight against the pillage of our precious natural resources,” said the Save Masungi Movement.

The Masungi Georeserve is located near the Kaliwa River Basin, which the government planned to turn into a reservoir to serve Metro Manila and nearby provinces. The dam project also faced strong opposition from nature conservationists and indigenous groups over its expected adverse impact on the Sierra Madre ecosystem. – Rappler.com

Samantha Bagayas

Samantha Bagayas is a community and civic engagement specialist under MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm. Aside from writing stories about movements and civic initiatives, she works with movers and campus journalists across the Philippines to amplify issues affecting their communities.