Probe sought over reported resort construction, illegal activities in Marikina Watershed

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2021 07:20 PM | Updated as of May 20 2021 08:31 PM

Probe sought over reported resort construction, illegal activities in Marikina Watershed 1
Photos from the Masungi Georeserve 

MANILA - The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has urged the country's anti-illegal logging task force to investigate alleged resort expansions and unabated illegal activities in the protected Marikina Watershed, its spokesperson confirmed to ABS-CBN News on Wednesday. 

Interior Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya, in an interview, said that he "already requested" the task force, led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), to investigate reports submitted by the Masungi Georeserve Foundation.

The nature reserve protects and maintains some parts of the watershed in Rizal, which is considered a "priority" area to protect in Luzon, according to the official.

Based on separate memoranda obtained by ABS-CBN News, Malaya said among those to be probed are the following: 

  • Alleged illegal "entry and incursions" in the Marikina Watershed
  • Some resorts supposedly "fencing off the river" while expanding facilities "with new permanent accommodations," violating environmental laws

"It is going to be a joint task on the part of the DENR and the Philippine National Police (PNP)," Malaya said in an interview. 

"The PNP, for them to immediately stop the encroachment as well as the illegal clearing and cutting of trees being done in the area and for the DENR to investigate if there is legal basis for what they are doing so that we can file necessary charges for those who are responsible," he added. 

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ABS-CBN News reached out to Environment Undersecretary Ed Leonardo, the task force's executive director, to ask for his comments on the development, but his office said he was on a trip to Zamboanga. 

Malaya, meanwhile, said the task force would also look into the resorts as the supposed encroachment and illegal cutting of trees there were apparently due to their expansion. 

"Kailangan alamin natin (we need to know) what is the legal title of the resort to the location where they are located, and what is their legal basis to expand outside of their, kung mayroon man silang (if they have) legal title," he explained. 

The said watershed in Rizal 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.”

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

On Tuesday, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Rizal dispatched a team to the Marikina Watershed to check on the reported illegal activities there.

PENRO said earlier in the day that the team, composed of 2 to 3 people, has yet to return to their office, as the expedition could last longer. 

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.

She also pointed out that the alleged expansion of resorts in the deeper parts of the forest started at the height of the pandemic.

The Upper Marikina Water Basin is in its last stages of “forest death" due to continued illegal activities, the conservationist had said.