‘Today, our forest won’: Masungi Georeserve Foundation lauds removal of armed ‘invaders’ 

Published September 23, 2022, 6:29 PM

by Patrick Garcia

The Masungi Georeserve Foundation expressed gratitude to the national government for prohibiting land claimants and armed personnel from entering the conservation site on Friday, Sept. 23.

In its Facebook post, the foundation lauded the government’s action following reports about the encampment of several armed men within the site since Sept. 3. The armed men claimed they are holding a survey plan for a certain individual who is claiming ownership of the land.

“We found champions in Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Benhur Abalos and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr., who have demonstrated today that they are firmly on the side of environmental protection and the safety of its defenders. Majority of the invaders were no longer around just before the Secretary’s party came on-site,” the foundation said.

“Masungi Georeserve Foundation deeply thanks DILG Sec. Benhur and his staff for personally going to Lot 10, parts of Masungi Georeserve and the Masungi Geopark Project. With his commitment to protecting these areas, we look forward to working with him to bolster our efforts in reforesting and defending our conservation sites. We also give our sincere appreciation to PNP Chief General Azurin, for his dedication to peace and safety by putting up a police detachment in our vulnerable areas. We thank as well PNP CALABARZON Regional Director Brig. General Nartatez for confiscating the firearms in the encampment when others didn’t. This helped deescalate the situation,” it added.

On Monday, Sept. 19, police operatives went to the area to investigate the incident. They confiscated several firearms belonging to the armed men due to lack of proper documents and licenses.

The foundation also thanked Sen. Risa Hontiveros for her initiative to call an inquiry into the “anomalous and violent incidents in Masungi’s conserved areas”, saying her action brought even more sense of urgency on the matter.

“To all the media correspondents and outlets that have kept a watchful and truthful eye on this precarious situation, thank you for your persistence and diligence in not letting this story be buried away,” the foundation said.

“Finally, to our fellow Filipinos, partners, allies in government, and previous visitors, who have voiced their support and opinions, calling out facts as they see it and pushing this issue online and offline — you have protected our rangers and team by not letting harm happen to them in the darkness. You and the media have helped galvanise the government agencies into action,” it added.

The foundation stressed that through the public’s combined vigilance, persistence, and courage another assault on the conservation site has been foiled.

“Let us continue to push back and speak truth to power not only in Masungi but in other threatened sanctuaries in the Philippines,” the foundation said.