LA Masungi Georeserve Foundation has commended the commitment of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to cracking down on crime in the Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary and surrounding Upper Marikina Watershed, and to maximizing police response to threats against wildlife. environmental defenders.
Masungi trustees and advisors recently held a dialogue and arranged a site visit with senior PNP officials represented by MGen. Valeriano de Leon, director of the Calabarzon regional police office, General Eliseo Cruz, and the director of the Rizal provincial police, Colonel Dominic Baccay.
The meeting was the first time a high-level police delegation had been sent to the Masungi Geographic Reserve, an endangered karst landscape 45 kilometers east of Metro Manila.
During the dialogue, the PNP said it would review previous incidents of attacks on conservationists, respond quickly to reports of criminal activity and consider designating police officers to work with Masungi on site protection. conservation.
“We’ve had a lot of challenges with the PNP over the years; as I pointed out at the meeting, we’re more concerned about the future and becoming allies in the fight for climate and environmental justice. “said Tony La Viña, Environmental Advocate, Human Rights Lawyer and Advisor to the Masungi Georeserve Foundation.
“We hope this will be a new era for collaboration on environmental law enforcement and the protection of our team. Attacks, including violence and misinformation, are orchestrated by notorious land grabbers, quarry operators and supporters of illegal structures, such as swimming pools, concrete fortresses and game bird farms inside the Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary and Upper Marikina Watershed.These unscrupulous groups intimidate and harass the rangers and conservationists so that they can go about their illegal activities undisturbed,” she added.
In July last year, two park rangers in Masungi were shot and injured after returning to their guard post from their night patrol. The owner of an illegal resort that sprawls into the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL) has been identified as the prime suspect.
In 2021, Global Witness reported that the Philippines was the third most dangerous country in the world for environmental defenders, with 26 murders in 2020 alone. Nearly 30% of attacks are believed to be linked to the exploitation of resources (large-scale logging, mining and agribusiness), hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure.
The Masungi Georeserve Foundation and conservationists have spoken out against the presence of quarry operators, land grabbers, illegal loggers and other protected area violators inside the UMRBPL. The degradation of the watershed, which is now only 20% forest, has been identified as one of the drivers of massive floods and landslides during Typhoon “Ulysses” in 2020 and Typhoon “Ondoy” in 2009.
The foundation continues to have meaningful dialogues with surrounding indigenous communities for innovative partnerships in landscape restoration and reforestation.