DENR office checking Marikina Watershed over reported resort construction, illegal clearings

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2021 04:03 PM | Updated as of May 18 2021 11:27 PM

DENR office checking Marikina Watershed over reported resort construction, illegal clearings 1
Photos from the Masungi Georeserve 

MANILA (UPDATE)— The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Rizal dispatched a team on Tuesday to check on reported encroachments in the protected Upper Marikina Watershed, including apparent construction and expansion of resort facilities, its acting officer told ABS-CBN News. 

PENRO Rizal Officer-in-Charge Ernesto Diso said he is also awaiting the report of their team, composed of 2 to 3 members, on the supposed illegal fires and clearings and the alleged construction of resorts in the Rizal watershed.

Masungi Georeserve trustee Billie Dumaliang had revealed to ABS-CBN News over the weekend that some 10 hectares of land are affected by supposed unabated fires and clearings in recent weeks, which could do irreversible damage in the watershed meant to prevent flooding in some parts of Metro Manila, especially Marikina City.

"This day, nag-dispatch ako ng team, pupunta sa lugar. We are awaiting the result of their field inspection... Kasama 'yung resorts sa i-inspeksyunin nila... Nag-dispatch pa lang kami ng team... mga 2 to 3 persons," Diso said. 

(This day, we dispatched a team, composed of 2 to 3 persons, to go to the area... The resorts will also be checked.)

DENR office checking Marikina Watershed over reported resort construction, illegal clearings 2
DENR office checking Marikina Watershed over reported resort construction, illegal clearings 3
DENR office checking Marikina Watershed over reported resort construction, illegal clearings 4
DENR office checking Marikina Watershed over reported resort construction, illegal clearings 5
DENR office checking Marikina Watershed over reported resort construction, illegal clearings 6

Photos from Billie Dumaliang, Masungi Georserve

Photos from Billie Dumaliang, Masungi Georserve

Photos from Billie Dumaliang, Masungi Georserve

Photos from Billie Dumaliang, Masungi Georserve

Photos from Billie Dumaliang, Masungi Georserve

Under Presidential Proclamation No. 296 issued in 2001, the Marikina Watershed Reservation was declared a protected area and was renamed the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL).

It was granted protection under Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992. This means the area is “protected against destructive human exploitation.”

But photos sent to ABS-CBN News showed what also seemed to be resorts that have been built in the watershed, with swimming pools and other structures that looked to be accommodation facilities.

Dumaliang said they have noticed the resort developments, which allegedly do not have permits, in recent years, but the establishments began expanding in the deeper parts of the forest during the height of the pandemic. 

One resort was spotted in Sitio San Roque in Baras, Rizal.

Last year, Dumaliang said that they have also sounded the alarm on illegal logging and land-grabbing activities there. 

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REMAINING FOREST COVER IN MARIKINA WATERSHED 

The conservationist over the weekend had said that while they supposedly reported the fires and the "rampant illegal resorts construction and encroachment" to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' (DENR) office in Region 4, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the agencies have yet to act on the matter. 

The two agencies have vowed to work together to fight illegal activities to protect the country’s remaining forest cover and habitats following the devastating floods and impact brought about by several strong typhoons in the country last year. 

She said Masungi sent the letters to the DENR regional office on May 5, and was acknowledged also on May 5, but no response or action has been taken. 

The Marikina Watershed, with a total land area of 26,128 hectares, gives "ecosystem services" to the localities of Antipolo City, Baras, General Nakar, Rodriguez, San Mateo, and Tanay, according to the DENR website. 

Department Administrative Order 1993-22 from the agency also declared the area as a “Strict Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.”

It is also connected with the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve, described by Masungi conservationists as its "twin watershed."

The DENR, however, pointed out that the watersheds' combined forest covers have been shrinking due to illegal activities in the protected landscapes. 

DENR estimates forest degradation in the two watersheds at 408 hectares annually.

But based on the data collated by the Center for Conservation Innovations, this figure is higher, based on the data they collected from 2003 to 2010. 

According to the non-government organization, based on their cover change detection analysis of the twin watershed's forest land cover as of 2010, nearly 434 hectares of "good quality forests" are lost annually from their combined 17,221 pristine forest covers. 

The forest area was based from data of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA). 

Due to illegal activities, the Upper Marikina Water Basin is in its last stages of “forest death," Dumaliang had said. 

ABS-CBN News reached out to Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones but he has yet to respond as of this posting. 

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, meanwhile, received the copy of Masungi's report upon his request early Tuesday and already granted ABS-CBN News' request for interview scheduled this week. 

The DENR office in Calabarzon has also yet to respond to a query on the matter. 

— With a report from Kristine Sabillo