Masungi denies DENR claim its contract is ‘void ab initio’

Masungi Georeserve denies DENR claim its contract is ‘void ab initio’

/ 01:09 PM April 03, 2024

PHOTO: Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga joinS Cabinet members in a meeting in this file photo taken on January 12, 2024. STORY: Masungi Georeserve Foundation contract ‘void ab initio’ – DENR

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga joinS Cabinet members in a meeting in this file photo taken on January 12, 2024. (DENR PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines – Masungi Georeserve Foundation’s contract to conserve a protected area is “void” from the very beginning, said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday.

During the Senate’s hearing on the construction of structures within protected areas, Senator Cynthia Villar asked DENR officials if Masungi’s contract is “endless,” further prodding whether it is valid or not.


“This is a matter of legal question and we are aware of the circumstances that surrounded the signing of this contract. We do have an opinion from the Department of Justice (DOJ) as of this moment that actually says that it is unconstitutional,” said Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, responding to Villar’s prodding.


Following Yulo-Loyzaga’s remarks, DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo said the agency has, in fact, recommended the cancellation of Masungi’s memorandum of agreement (MOA) with DENR.

“The legal grounds for the cancellation are what we are calling voidance, given the advice of the DOJ,” Yulo-Loyzaga added.

Later in the hearing Adobo said: “It is void from the very beginning.”

This, however, puzzled Villar who proceeded to ask: “If it’s void then it doesn’t exist. How come they are still there?”

No categorical answer was given to Villar’s question.

Contract ‘void ab initio? Untenable’

Now according to Masungi Georeserve Foundation, the DENR’s claim that its contract is “void ab initio (void from the beginning)” is indefensible.


Masungi specifically called it “untenable.”

“The contract was validly entered into by the DENR secretary under her broad powers under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act to enter into agreements with non-state actors in pursuit of conservation. The contract also has all the elements of a valid agreement,” Masungi Director for Advocacy Billie Dumaliang told in a Viber message.

“The MOA provision which declares that the intent of the parties is to constitute the project area as a perpetual land trust is not a grant or gift of land to the foundation, contrary to malicious insinuations. A close reading of the contract will reveal that we can only manage the project for as long as the law or constitution allows, which is yet to be determined by the courts for conservation,” Dumaliang emphasized.

Masungi then insisted that its MOA “remains valid and binding” until the court declares that it is void.

“The final determination of constitutionality and legality is the province of the judiciary, and not the executive branch. We will do everything in our power to make sure that we will be able to continue doing the important work together with our up to 100 local rangers and thousands of volunteers,” Dumaliang said.

Masungi then added that if the DENR is “truly concerned” about the technicalities of the agreement, it can formally negotiate with them.

READ: Foundation hits DENR for ‘irresponsible’ report on Masungi

Despite their willingness, Masungi claimed that DENR chief Yulo-Loyzaga has not granted them even one opportunity for negotiation.

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“She has not even visited the project site to check fact from fiction,” Dumaliang said.

TAGS: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Masungi Georeserve

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