If land grabbers succeed, flooding will worsen as years go by – Mayor Vico 

Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto reminded the public on Friday, Sept. 23, of the environmental perils of land grabbing in the Masungi Georeserve, citing its impact in worsening floods.

“If land grabbers succeed, flooding will worsen as the years go by. No flood control will be enough if we do not defend our environment,” Sotto posted on his social media pages.

Attached to Sotto’s post was a video from the Masungi GeoReserve’s Facebook page, showing the encounter of the reserve’s representatives with the alleged land grabbers.

According to Masungi, three of their representatives came to the encampment on Sept. 17 after they received reports that the number of people congregating in the area was growing.

They asked the unidentified individuals to show valid documents that would verify their claims on the land.

“Needless to say, their claims were vague and conflicting. Not a single document, valid or not, was shown. Instead, we were met with repeated aggression even as we tried to reason and de-escalate the situation,” the reserve’s statement read.

Sotto has shown and given his support to the efforts of the Masungi Georeserve, notably against deforestation.

He often linked the benefit of a lush, healthy watershed in mitigating flooding which gravely affects his city of governance, Pasig.

He was one of the four Metro Manila mayors who signed the joint call to action against quarrying agreements in the Masungi protected area on Tuesday, June 21.

He signed along with Marikina City Mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro, former Muntinlupa City Mayor Jaime Fresnedi, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, and Municipality of Angono, Rizal Vice Mayor Gerardo Calderon.

In July, Sotto also visited the reserve with his other local government constituents. They each planted a tree and learned about environmental conservation, biodiversity, and reforestation from the rangers.

Reserve invaders

Since Sept. 3, armed individuals were reportedly seen camped on lot 10 located along the 48-km mark of the Marcos Highway in the province of Rizal, which is a part of the conservation site.

In the afternoon of Sept. 19, a provincial police unit found and confiscated several firearms inside the encampment.

On Sept. 20, Masungi Georeserve called on the national government to intervene and protect the conservation site, noting help from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

After visiting the site on Friday, Sept. 23, the PNP announced they will be deploying police detachments in the contested areas of the georeserve. They have also barred groups from entering the protected area, particularly current and potential claimants of lands within the protected area.