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DENR stops quarry firm’s Masungi project

/ 05:12 AM March 05, 2020
Masungi Geo reserve in Rizal province

TOP SPOT “Sapot,” a platform that looks like a spiderweb, is the most popular spot at Masungi Geo reserve in Rizal province.—CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered the closure and cancellation of permit of the quarry operator that encroached into the Masungi Geopark project in Baras town, Rizal province.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that aside from the closure, representatives of Rapid City Realty and Development Corp., a quarry firm based in Antipolo City, would be summoned and given a notice of violation.

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Probe

Cimatu inspected the geopark project on Tuesday, following reports that at least 500 hectares of degraded forestland was fenced off by the quarry company. The illegal fencing cut off the Masungi Georeserve Foundation and its team from accessing the area, which represents a quarter of the 2,000-ha land reserved for their conservation work done in partnership with the government.

Local environment personnel, along with policemen and soldiers, took down the barbed wires and nails that were hammered last week into “tibig,” or sacking trees, which were native to the Philippines.

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Cimatu said the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau would look into the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) granted by the environment agency to Rapid City in 1998.

He also ordered a probe into similar agreements with two other quarrying firms—Quarry Rock Group Inc. and Quimson Limestone Inc. The three companies were allegedly operating within the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape using MPSAs granted to them in the late 1990s.

“This is a watershed and also a protected area,” Cimatu said, noting that under the law, mining activities should be prohibited in these sites.

He said the DENR would not anymore allow the rene­wal or extension of Rapid City’s MPSA, which would expire soon after 25 years of validity.

The Inquirer tried but failed to reach any of Rapid City’s officials on Wednesday.

‘Good signal

’The Masungi Georeserve Foundation, which manages the georeserve that features ecotourism activities, hailed the DENR’s action as a big step for the environment.

“It’s definitely a signal that they prioritize Masungi and that the environment is part of the government’s agenda,” Billie Dumaliang, the foundation’s managing trustee and advocacy specialist, told the Inquirer on Wednesday.

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“It is also a very good signal to all other environment offenders that the government will not tolerate any violations of the law,” she added.

However, the recent incident in the geopark, along with harassment that Masungi’s team members had received from quarry firms, provides a very clear picture of the destruction of forests that have been happening for so many years, Dumaliang said.

“We will hold the secretary to his word until all of [his orders] are implemented,” she said.

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TAGS: cancellation of permit, DENR, illegal quarrying, Masungi Geopark, Rapid City Realty and Development Corp., Roy Cimatu
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