Officials behind the conservation of Masungi Georeserve condemned the threats to park rangers’ lives after booby traps and improvised explosives were found within the area last week.
According to their statement on social media, traps and explosives such as Molotov cocktails were found in the same area where two of their rangers were shot earlier in July, away from the tourist trails.
“We believe this recent act of terror is clearly linked with the said shooting and the cases filed against the suspects,” they wrote.
“Without a doubt, these were set up to terrorize rangers and prevent them from pursuing the restoration of the forest and wildlife and from patrolling and stopping the illegal encroachment and construction of structures inside the protected area, watershed, and wildlife sanctuary.”
Masungi Georeserve said that members of the PNP Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Canine (EOD/K9) Group, as well as the SWAT team swept the area where the explosives were found, but they had already been removed by then.
Individuals found at the nearby GSB resort admitted to setting up and removing the traps and explosives upon interrogation, the statement said.
“We once again call for the immediate apprehension and prosecution by the government of perpetrators of all crimes against the environment and against humanity. The casualty and damage list continues to grow by the day. This must come to an end! We strongly condemn this act of terrorism that not only endangers rangers and the protected area, but also poses significant risk to public safety and the nearby community and wildlife.”
Masungi Georeserve is a geological heritage site in Baras, Rizal that is home to 60-million-year-old limestone formations, and over 400 documented species of flora and fauna. The area is a joint conservation initiative between the Masungi Georeserve Foundation and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Conservation efforts began in 1996, after the georeserve became the site of illegal ecological activities and real estate speculation.
In recent years, the protected area has grown to become one of the country’s top eco-tourism attractions and received the Pathfinder Award for conservation innovation in 2018 from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and WildArk.