‘This is an invasion’: Armed men encamps Masungi conservation site
MANILA, Philippines — A group of purportedly armed men has encamped in Masungi Conservation site since last week, allegedly planning “to take over huge tracts of land in the protected area” and sell them to third parties, the site’s management revealed.
In a Facebook post, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation on Saturday said more than 30 plus armed men from a security agency have encamped on the roadside of Km. 48 of the Marikina-Infanta Highway since last week.
“LET’S BE CLEAR. THIS IS AN INVASION,” the Foundation said in its post.
“They arrived last week and continue to grow in number,” the post further said. “They reportedly plan to take over huge tracts of land in the protected area and are selling them to third-parties.”
The armed men are still encamped in the area as of Sunday noon, according to Ann Dumaliang, National Geographic Explorer and trustee of the foundation.
“Yes, they are still encamped there,” Dumaliang told reporters in an interview.
The foundation pointed out that the area is part of Masungi’s conservation site, the Kaliwa Watershed protected area, and has been legally titled to the Republic of the Philippines since the 1950’s.
“It is being conserved and reforested by our team under an agreement with the government,” the foundation said in their Facebook post.
“This is a critical area for the wildlife sanctuary and the consequences of losing this area once again will set back forest protection and be a huge injustice to Filipinos,” they added.
However, the security agency claims to hold a survey plan named after a certain Beatriz Sonquipal that was signed by a director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s (DENR) Regional Office in the early 2000’s, according to the foundation.
“Obviously, a mere survey plan is not proof of ownership,” they stressed.
The foundation further said that the hired security men all also refuse to disclose any details such as their names and contact details “so that we might check the legitimacy of their claims and arrangements.”
“If this is not shady business, there is no need to obstruct the verification process by withholding even basic information and avoiding accountability,” they said.
Dumaliang said they already informed the DENR but they have yet to see the presence of DENR or police personnel.
The Masungi Georeserve, which is within the rainforests of Rizal, is a 400-hectare land in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.
It can be recalled that last April, two forest rangers were injured after they were attacked by alleged residents of Baras, Rizal.
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