'Clear failure of security': Independent probe sought on shooting of Masungi Georeserve forest rangers

Published July 25, 2021, 7:19 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) has called for an independent investigation on the shooting of two forest rangers of the Masungi Georeserve on Saturday night, July 24, noting that the incident practically occurred under the cops’ noses.

(Photo by Max Kleinen/ Unsplash)

“We join the cry for justice over these escalating attacks against Masungi’s brave and dedicated forest rangers…the latest attack was brazen and virtually in plain sight of police personnel,” Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the environmental group, said in a statement Sunday, July 25.

“We call for an independent probe into the clear failure of security, as Masungi Georeserve noted that a PNP [Philippine National Police] Action Force station was ‘just around the corner’ from the Bayog ranger station where the attack happened,” said Dulce.

The 3,000-hectare Masungi Georeserve is a protected area of unique limestone formations and forests that have constantly faced pressures from conflicting land uses.

Kalikasan PNE said the Philippines has been declared by international investigative group Global Witness as the second deadliest country in the world and deadliest in Asia for land and environmental defenders last year. Since 2017, the Philippines has ranked between 1st and 2nd globally.

According to Dulce, private businesses such as GSB resort, Rublou, and Green Atom, which have “illegally encroached” into the protected watershed must also be investigated.

“These businesses have clear motives as the Masungi administration has repeatedly received death threats and intimidations,” he claimed.

Dulce further said that a quarrying company also tried to occupy and fence off hundreds of hectares of the park’s reforestation areas.

“The Global Witness annual reports have repeatedly recommended tackling the root causes such as ensuring human rights due diligence, addressing land inequality. They have also repeatedly recommended bringing to justice perpetrators and investigating and redressing corruption behind the businesses in conflict with defenders,” Dulce concluded.