MANILA — The Masungi Georeserve Foundation (MGFI) on Thursday discredited the protest of some Baras, Rizal residents, saying the "bogus" action was perpetrated by "those involved in illegal construction inside the watershed, and quarrying."
"This fake rally is nothing new. Sadly, this is part of a systemic disinformation against us. We are fully aware of attempts to discredit our project by those involved in corrupt activities and illegal construction of resorts and rest houses inside the watershed, and quarrying," the conservation foundation said.
On Wednesday, some residents accused MGFI of "land grabbing."
But MGFI said the protesters were being used to "generate sympathy, spread disinformation, and sow hatred against genuine environment defenders."
"To add, this bogus rally happened in a completely different area from where armed trespassers encamped recently," the foundation said.
Masungi's caretakers called on government to "take decisive action" against the "professional squatters."
"We still call on for the government to to arrest and prosecute professional squatters and seriously investigate the possible anomalous, syndicated acts behind them. This is an ongoing situation that is still not resolved," they said.
The Masungi Georeserve is an ecotourism park that sits inside the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL)—one of the 94 protected areas declared under the E-NIPAS law, according to the environment department's website.
The MGFI started operating the ecotourism park for public use in 2015. Two years later, it signed a memorandum of agreement with the environment department for conservation efforts within the UPMRBPL covering 2,700 hectares.
The 2017 agreement covers a portion of land which is the subject of an ancestral domain claim, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
It said the Dumagat-Remontados of Antipolo applied for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title covering some 13,000 hectares, or half of the 26,126-hectare total land area of the UMRBPL.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Thursday called on the Senate to investigate the "incidents of violence, land-grabbing, illegal logging, and quarrying, which affect the Masungi Georeserve and the rest of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape."
“Nakakabahala na ang paulit-ulit na iba’t ibang uri ng karahasan na nararanasan ng mga tagapangalaga ng Masungi... We cannot take our environmental defenders for granted,” Hontiveros said.
(The repeated incidents of violence experienced by the caretakers of Masungi are worrying.)
On Monday, the MGFI also urged the government to take urgent action on the presence of dozens of armed men who have been encamped within the vicinity of their conservation site since last week.
The men, said to be from the Sinagtala Security Service, are feared to be planning to take over a huge portion of land in the protected area.
The Philippine National Police said it found only 6 security personnel in the area, instead of the reported 30. Their firearms were confiscated after they failed to show registration documents, said the PNP.
The PNP is investigating reports that some retired and active policemen were involved in the incident, it said.
-- With a report from Lady Vicencio, ABS-CBN News