MANILA — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Sunday said it has already sent people to check if it is true that armed men had fenced off parts of the Masungi Georeserve in Rizal province.
Usec. Jonas Leones told ABS-CBN News in a text message that the DENR already sent a team of foresters to the site “to validate the report and effect immediate stoppage of any activity thereat.”
Leones said they will also issue a show cause order to the identified owner.
“If found in violation of existing laws after investigation, a demolition of the fences will be undertaken tomorrow,” he added.
He told ABS-CBN that the DENR will provide further details once they get them.
On Sunday morning, Masungi Georeserve posted an update on its Facebook page, saying that the company behind the fencing off of the area continues to send armed security personnel.
The closed-off area is a reforestation site and fencing it off has blocked Masungi personnel from accessing 1,000 hectares of land.
“Community members likewise report that this is not the first time the group has done something like this, and that some 1,000 hectares of forest around us are being claimed by them,” Masungi Georeserve said in its post.
In recent years, Masungi Georeserve has become a popular eco-tourism site because of its unique limestone landscapes, and adventurous but also Instagram-worthy rope courses.
But it is also a protected area that has undergone massive reforestation to address the damage left by illegal logging and quarrying in the area.
Billie Dumaliang, a trustee and advocacy officer at Masungi Georeserve, told ABS-CBN News that the area is part of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape and is under the Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary and Strict Nature Reserve.
Under Proclamation 296 issued in 2001, the Marikina Watershed Reservation was declared a protected area and was renamed Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.
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.”
Meanwhile, DENR Department Administrative Order 1993-22 declared the area as a “Strict Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.”
ABS-CBN News is still waiting for details on the company that fenced off the area and declared it as “private property.”
Dumaliang earlier said that the guards at the fence were not able to show a land title or a permit authorizing them to install fences. She said the men claimed to be employees of a renewable energy company.
A video shared by Dumaliang shows the guards saying that they were armed to protect the property of the land owners, but did not specify what the company’s plans were.
Leones said they will check such report.