Group managing Masungi tags more ‘encroachments’

Group managing Masungi tags more ‘encroachments’

/ 05:36 AM March 24, 2024

Billie Dumaliang


The nonprofit organization tapped by the government to manage the Masungi nature reserve in Rizal province is again raising the alarm over commercial “encroachments” on the protected forest area.

It is a growing concern for the award-winning group and echoes the recent scrutiny of a private resort that had been allowed to be built at the famed Chocolate Hills in Bohol.


In a Facebook post on March 19, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. (MGFI) called attention to two resorts—Erin’s Place and Lihim na Batis—located in the portion covered by the Upper Marikina River Basin (UMRB) and under the municipality of Baras, Rizal.


In an Inquirer interview two days later, the MGFI said it had located seven more resorts and private developments within the 26,000-hectare UMRB, which overlaps with the Masungi reforestation area managed by the foundation and is a protected area in itself since 2011.

Of the seven sites that were spotted and documented using a drone, the foundation identified five: Joeylot, Damun Bakery, Eastside resort and campsite, GSB Farm and Bangui Farm.

Unimplemented orders

In an interview on Saturday, MGFI trustee Billie Dumaliang said the foundation had been sending letters about the structures to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)—the last in August 2023—but all it got was “just an acknowledgment that they received the letter.”

“No response or update about what they have done in response to those complaints,” she said.

“There is no genuine desire to put a stop to these encroachments inside protected areas. What we’ve seen so far are band-aid solutions—issuing cease and desist orders but not implementing them,” Dumaliang said in an earlier interview on Thursday.

“With only 11 to 20 percent of forest cover left, it seems resorts and other unsustainable developments are multiplying faster than forests are, which is really a shame considering how important the watershed is to so many Filipinos living in Rizal and Metro Manila,” she said.


According to Dumaliang, the Calabarzon regional office of the DENR issued cease and desist orders on the two resorts on July 6, 2021.

But in less than a year, in January 2022, Erin’s Place received an endorsement from the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB), she said.

Clearance not yet out

The Inquirer reached out to the five establishments last tagged by the foundation for alleged encroachment. Except for Eastside, they have yet to respond to the message left on their social media pages, email addresses and contact numbers.

“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources have not yet released our [PAMB clearance],” Eastside said on its Facebook Messenger account on Thursday. There was no more response when it was asked why it was able to build the resort without the clearance.

In the wake of the Chocolate Hills controversy, several senators have called for an inquiry on the state of other protected areas, like the UMRB where alleged violations had been reported since 2020.

Aside from the commercial developments, the MGFI has continually raised concern over deforestation caused by logging, charcoal making and quarrying activities in the georeserve.

READ: Marcos urged to protect Masungi vs deforestation

Under the terms of a 2017 agreement signed during the tenure of then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, the foundation was given the mandate to restore and rewild the Masungi area, particularly the 3,000 ha of degraded land around its limestone formations, using self-generated funds from low-volume, nature-based activities and with the help of institutional and corporate partners.

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It has since been earning accolades for its work, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Award in 2022.

TAGS: environment, Masungi

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