Finally: DENR Drives Out Illegal Occupants in Marikina Watershed
The late environment secretary Gina Lopez had warned about the consequences of the denuded Marikina Watershed. In September 2017, Lopez warned about how the Marikina Watershed needed immediate reforestation to protect Metro Manila from severe flooding.
Aerial Inspection: Pasig River and the Marikina Watershed in September 2017
Nearly four years later and several instances of flooding in Metro Manila, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has finally caught up to Lopez’s crusade.
The DENR issued stoppage orders against 123 illegal structures within the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape in its campaign to keep encroachers out of the area, according to a report by the Inquirer.
The environment department even served cease-and-desist orders to owners of private houses constructed on the riverbanks and easements along the river. Violators could face up to 12 years imprisonment on top of a P5 million fine.
Among the alleged violators are owners of resorts, piggeries, camps, and retreat centers within the protected area.
But since 2011, there were also reports of logging and quarrying companies operating in the protected area and causing massive deforestation and land erosion, according to the Inquirer.
At the heart of the battle for the Marikina Watershed is the Masungi Georeserve, a piece of paradise close to Metro Manila. The Masungi Georeserve is home to prehistoric plants older than dinosaurs and is the focal site of reforestation efforts by the Masungi Georeserve Foundation.
Plants Older Than Dinosaurs in the Marikina Watershed
Before and After Reforestation at Masungi Georeserve
In February 2020, barbed wires and bleeding trees in Masungi made headlines as the reserve fought a desperate war against mining companies seeking to plunder its rich quarry.
The latest incident in Masungi occurred on July 24, when two forest rangers were shot by still unidentified assailants. The two survived.
That incident prompted the DENR to seek help from law enforcers to identify the shooters and bolster the monitoring in the protected area.