Masungi Georeserve protectors 'gutted' after discovering deforestation activities in critical watershed

Published June 18, 2021, 9:33 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

A blatantly illegal and potentially catastrophic tree-cutting activity is taking place in the Upper Marikina Watershed.

(Photo from Masungi Georeserve Facebook page)

The Masungi Georeserve Foundation recently discovered what it described as a “tree massacre” during its on-the-ground inspection of the large scale burnings in the critical watershed. People behind the georeserve took to Facebook to share their shocking findings.

“We saw what hell on earth might look like: scores of young trees cut down, multiple new structures and outsiders installed, large tracts of the protected area illegally burned and cleared. We were gutted,” a post last Wednesday, June 16, read.

“On one side of the mountain, we are planting and nurturing native trees, on the other side, offenders continue to destroy and encroach on the critical watershed.” The apparent illegal logging activities should not be ignored, the georeserve stressed.

“The watershed is our only natural defense against disastrous flooding, scorching heat, the loss of clean water, and the extinction of our unique wildlife,” it wrote, adding, “We cannot turn a blind eye to this!”

(Photo from Masungi Georeserve Facebook page)
“The watershed deserves protection and restoration, not deforestation,” the same post read.

Another worrisome detail uncovered during the inspection was the presence of suspicious people on site. “On our documentation mission, we found persons at the scene of the crime. They said they were in a so-called ‘association of farmers’ (mga ‘magmamais at manggugulay’) who were recently invited and brought into the protected area.”

(Photo from Masungi Georeserve Facebook page)

“We know from experience that transplanting people and using various dummies as fronts is a common tactic used by vested interests to occupy forest land,” the georeserve said.

“We have reported these illegal burnings and clearings to partner enforcement agencies and we will continue to work with them and concerned groups to hold perpetrators accountable. In the meantime, we have established additional checkpoints to prevent further encroachments into the watershed and reforestation sites, which is Masungi’s larger ecosystem,” it added.

Located in the Southern Sierra Madre range in Baras, Rizal, the Masungi Georeserve is a conservation area in the Philippines. It is centered on the geological formations of Masungi Rock.

It was declared a strict nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) back in 1993.