Marcos urged to protect Masungi vs deforestation
MANILA, Philippines — Leaders from different sectors on Monday urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to save the Masungi Georeserve in Rizal province by intervening in the continued deforestation of the conservation area.
In an open letter released on World Environment Day, the groups criticized the “orchestrated attempt to stop the Masungi Geopark Project,” citing the move of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to “discredit, undermine and altogether scrap” the initiative.
“We believe our laws must be applied liberally toward conservation and not toward destruction. We hope that a resolution will be made in a constructive way and not through strong-arming, faithful sustainable development partners,” the group said.
The signatories to the open letter include Neric Acosta, chairperson of the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development; Antonio Contreras, professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños School; and Lia Mai Torres, executive director of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines Inc.
“We condemn the attacks against Masungi’s environment defenders in the form of disinformation, political and legal harassment and physical violence. These heroes deserve the nation’s gratitude, not oppression,” the letter read.
The group cited a news report, which said that the DENR was considering canceling the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the government and the foundation.
But according to Environment Secretary Antonia Loyzaga, the DENR has “not spoken about a cancellation of the contract,” as they are currently reviewing the document to take the proper action.
The Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. (MGFI) said the 2017 MOA between their organization and the DENR should be read as an agreement for a “perpetual land trust for conservation” and not as a perpetual license.
In its position paper submitted to the House Committee on Natural Resources chair and Rep. Elpidio Barzaga on April 11, MGFI said the MOA “should be read in its entirety” and not reduced to a single phrase of “perpetual land trust.”
“Otherwise, the 2017 MOA will not only disregard the premium given to the intent of the contracting parties or ignore the most basic rules on interpretation of contracts but will also diminish the express constitutional provisions in relation to environmental protection and conservation,” the foundation said in the document.