An official of the Masungi Georeserve Foundation said that the Philippines was in danger of losing a geological heritage should the plan of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to build its new headquarters there push through.
Ann Dumaliang, a trustee of the foundation, stressed in an ABS-CBN News interview that while they were open to collaborating with the Department of Justice and the BuCor, protecting the area’s ecosystem should be of utmost importance.
“We stand to lose a geological heritage that has already been restored in the last two decades,” Dumaliang said.
Dumaling said that Masungi possessed a unique landscape that was home to various forms of biodiversity, and said that the priority for the area should be focused on conservation and protection.
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.
The foundation raised the alarm after about 20 officers from the prisons bureau arrived at the heritage site with orders to conduct an “ocular inspection” for the supposed relocation of the New Bilibid Prison.
“They bear a newly minted title over 270 hectares of the Lot 10 property in the name of BuCor. The remaining 30 hectares of Lot 10 were reportedly titled in the name of the [Department of Environment and Natural Resources]. Lot 10 and the 300 hectares in question comprise the Masungi Georeserve,” the foundation wrote online.
The foundation questioned how the prison bureau could possess a title covering Lot 10, considering it is home to the georeserve’s fragile limestone formations, and was already part of conservation efforts under the Masungi Geopark Project between the foundation and the environmental agency, as signed by then-environment secretary Gina Lopez in 2017.
The foundation added that former environment secretary Lito Atienza issued a memorandum to submit an alternative area for the New Bilibid Prison in 2009, as Lot 10 was already subject to private rights.
“Moreover, the site is mountainous and geologically unbuildable. The development will be financially prohibitive, and in the words of scientists from the National Museum of the Philippines, will have ‘expensive consequences’ for the environment,” the foundation wrote.
This is far from the first time the georeserve has faced threats from outsiders. Its rangers have been shot and threatened with booby traps and explosives around the area, and in September, several armed men occupied the area even as authorities found them with illegal firearms.
In an interview with Esquire Philippines, Masungi Georeserve said that the foundation could be home to a basalt-rich quarry worth hundreds of billions of pesos, which continues to attract outside companies.
Masungi Georeserve calls on gov’t agencies to ‘act urgently’ after over 30 armed men set up camp in protected area
“LET’S BE CLEAR. THIS IS AN INVASION,” the reserve’s caretakers wrote on Facebook. Read more.
The conservation area’s caretakers criticized police for “downplaying the incident” as a common land dispute. Read more.
Booby traps and improvised explosives were planted to likely terrorize park rangers patrolling the area Read more.
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