In July 2020, the reserve shared how a prehistoric plant older than dinosaurs can be found in its forests. According to the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, cycads are regarded as the "Rosetta Stone" of plant biology because of the information they contain about the Earth's past. Of the 11 cycads species in the Philippines, 10 are endemic—or can only be found here.
“Masungi is a wildlife sanctuary for endangered fauna species like the Philippine Hawk Eagle, Indigo-banded Kingfisher, Philippine Hanging Parrot, and more. It is also the home of different endangered and threatened plant species like the Bagawak-Morado, Narra, Kamagong, White Lauan, and more,” Masungi Georeserve says.
How has the Masungi Georeserve Foundation improved the state of sanctuary?
In 1996, the barren land in Baras, Rizal was abused and plagued by destructive activities including lots of land speculation. But thanks to 25 years of restoration efforts, the limestone formation remained intact, and a secondary forest has now emerged.
In 2015, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation was launched and the Discovery Trail was opened to help sustainably finance the conservation efforts of the landscape through geotourism. The rope courses and temporary structures in the trail are designed to be low-impact and complementary to the natural terrain.
In 2017, through a landmark agreement with DENR, Masungi started to restore degraded watershed areas around Masungi, including portions of the surrounding watershed areas. As of 2022, there have been significant milestones in the Masungi Geopark Project, the location of the foundations’ forest restoration project.
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There have been 2,000 out of 2,700 hectares secured for conservation, 17 ranger stations established, 100 rangers engaged in meaningful work, 18 km of monitoring trails established, and around 70,000 native trees planted and nurtured.
But a lot of work still needs to be done.
Masungi's attention is focused on the protection of forests in the surrounding watershed and this protection carries risks for the safety of the forest rangers who are on the frontline of guarding and nurturing the forest land. The main deterrents to our work are the large-scale illegal occupants of the area, quarrying companies, and their cohorts. Some of the rangers were even shot, mauled, and harassed by these violators.
“Forests do not regenerate overnight, and greedy interests only slow down their rehabilitation,” Masungi Georeserve tells Esquire.
“There’s still a long way to go to bring back the life of the watershed. If damaging developments and impunity continue to prevail in the area, no matter what kind of effort Masungi, our forest rangers and partners do, a safe and abundant future for the forest and the communities who depend on it will remain uncertain. This is why we need serious law enforcement and support from the government on the ground.
But there have been successes—the project is globally renowned for ‘flipping the script’ in terms of watershed rehabilitation—showing that it is possible to change the way things have always been. We were able to stop at least 4 major illegal occupations in the past two years.
“We now have a presence in 2,000 hectares out of 2,700 hectares of the project site. This is a big deal and we hope we can get the support we need to sustain it. If we don’t, all of these gains will be lost once again,” says Masungi Georeserve.