environmental issues

Marcos urged to protect Masungi Geopark Project from contract cancellation

Iya Gozum

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Marcos urged to protect Masungi Geopark Project from contract cancellation
(1ST UPDATE) Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga says if the contract with Masungi falls through, the DENR is ready to take over the conservation project through ‘a whole-of-society effort’

MANILA, Philippines – Environmental advocates, scientists, and government leaders urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to protect the Masungi Geopark Project’s (MGP) contract from possible cancellation.

Seventy individuals appealed to the Marcos administration to save the reforestation site in Rizal province and its defenders, in an open letter released on Monday, June 5.

In a statement, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Incorporated (MGFI) said: “With looming threats to cancel the MGP 2017 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the MGFI and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the signatories called on the Marcos administration to uphold its commitment to achieving the country’s climate and biodiversity targets.”

Signatories of the open letter include Palawan 3rd District Representative Edward Hagedorn, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, and Neric Acosta, chairperson of non-profit organization Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development.

The contract, signed in 2017 under the leadership of the late former environment secretary Gina Lopez, mandates the MGFI to rehabilitate around 2,700 hectares of deforested land in the Upper Marikina Watershed.

It is currently under scrutiny, with the DENR now contesting the constitutionality of the perpetual land trust granted to the MGFI.

The Department of Justice also released a formal opinion saying that this particular provision violates Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that such agreements must not exceed a period of 25 years.

Ann Dumaliang, one of the managing trustees of the MGFI, told Rappler the foundation is also calling on the President to help convene an oversight committee.

This committee shall be chaired by the environment secretary herself, as stipulated in the contract, and would provide guidance to the operations of the conservation project.

Ways forward

There is no doubt that the foundation has done good work, Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga admitted in a press conference on Monday, June 5.

“However, there are certain features of this agreement that really bring it into question,” said Loyzaga. “And because of those features, we will need to take the appropriate actions.”

If the contract is cancelled, the DENR will take over the rehabilitation site through the department’s Project TRANSFORM.

The project would involve concerned local government units, academic institutions, and different public and private sectors, the DENR chief said.

“This shall be a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society effort,” Loyzaga said. “And not just the effort of one single foundation or entity because in fact we all are part of this environment and not just that one foundation.” – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.