MANILA — The Bureau of Corrections on Friday said it wants to put up a regional office, not a penitentiary, inside the Masungi Georeserve in Rizal, despite Masungi saying the site is part of "protected and conserved areas."
"New Bilibid [Prison] office, hindi po prison cell[s]. Hindi po mga inmates ang ilalagay o PDL," BuCor acting chief Gregorio Catapang Jr. told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo when asked to clarify their plans inside Masungi.
(New Bilibid office, not prison cells. We're not going to transfer inmates or PDLs there.)
He added that there are plans to convert the current NBP site as a "one-stop shop" for government transactions while developing other idle properties owned by BuCor in Puerto Princesa City, Davao del Norte, Mindoro, Leyte and others.
His statement came after Masungi Georeserve posted on its Facebook page that around 20 corrections officials went to the area to conduct an ocular inspection of the "relocation site of the New Bilibid Prison."
Catapang confirmed that the men were from the BuCor and said the agency has a land property there of over 270 hectares.
Masungi, however, said that area is part of Lot 10, which is "home to the fragile limestone formations of Masungi Georeserve" and "part of several protected and conserved areas."
"[T]he site is mountainous and geologically unbuildable," Masungi added.
"The development will be financially prohibitive, and in the words of scientists from the National Museum of the Philippines, will have 'expensive consequences' for the environment."
But Catapang said the planned construction would not cause destruction to the conservation area.
"Hindi po namin sisirain 'yan. Magtatanim po kami diyan kung kailangan. 'Yan eh bawal po 'yan [kung] sisirain natin ang bundok," he said.
(We're not going to destroy it, we're going to plant there if needed. If we're going to destroy the mountains that is prohibited.)
Masungi officials insisted that there are "many viable alternative sites elsewhere" for the new Bilibid office or penitentiary, saying it is a "priceless legacy of the nation that should be preserved at all costs instead of destroyed."