DENR ramps up security in Marikina watershed following park rangers' shooting

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2021 11:32 AM

MANILA— The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has started training a new batch of environment officers in the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape following a shooting incident there last month. 

Park rangers from the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, which conserves a portion of the Marikina Watershed in Baras, Rizal, sustained bullet wounds in the head and neck in an incident in July. 

In a statement, the DENR said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has directed DENR Calabarzon Director Nilo Tamoria to start training additional Deputized Environment and Natural Resources Officers (DENRO) to enforce laws inside the watershed and ramp up its protection.

The statement did not mention though how many officers would be trained. 

Cimatu also reportedly sought the assistance of the 80th Infantry Battalion, the Philippine Army, and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force to boost presence in the watershed.

“Hindi ko pinapayagan ang anumang illegal na gawain lalo dito sa loob ng protected area. We will deal with them one by one," Cimatu said.

(I will not allow any illegal activities inside the protected area.)

Billie Dumaliang, a managing trustee at the Masungi Georeserve, earlier told ABS-CBN News that they have been receiving "death threats, intimidation, and harassment on the ground from disgruntled violators." 

Before the attack, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) recommended the filing of charges against several local officials and establishments in Baras, Rizal over supposed encroachment at the watershed. 

Tamoria had also signed 43 cease and desist orders against the establishments due to violations in the protected areas.

Dumaliang earlier this year revealed to ABS-CBN News the supposed expansion of resorts in the Marikina Watershed, and the spike of illegal activities, clearing and burning of areas included, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The watershed 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.”

On Friday, the park rangers filed frustrated murder charges against resort owners they believe were behind the shooting.

The Philippines remain as one of the deadliest countries for environment defenders. Forty-six people were killed in 2019 alone because of environment-related issues, most of which are government workers, latest available data showed. 

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