Masungi Georeserve Wins Prestigious Award from the United Nations

A very timely award for the embattled sanctuary.

The Masungi Geopark Project won the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) Action Award under the Inspire Category, as announced in the awards ceremony held in Bonn, Germany this September 27. 

Out of 3,000 entries from over 150 countries, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation topped the competition for its youth-led efforts in combating deforestation and climate change through the restoration and protection of the Masungi landscape and parts of the Upper Marikina Watershed. 


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In her acceptance speech at the UN SDG Action Awards, Billie Dumaliang (left) dedicated the award to Masungi’s allies, partners, and entire community. Dumaliang also dedicated the award to the “quarry companies, land grabbers, and their enablers in government” which she said the team will continue to challenge. Billie shares the stage with her sister and Masungi's project manager and trustee, Ann Dumaliang.

Photo by Masungi Georeserve.

Masungi’s efforts have helped shift public policies and promote accountability – their campaigns have led to at least 3 legislative inquiries and intercepted at least five major illegal occupations in the conservation area in the last two years. Over 200 government officials have been trained to replicate their work, and over 20,000 citizens have been directly engaged in conservation activities and petitions.

The judges commended Masungi for being “bold enough to participate in national legislative inquiries and direct lobbying.” They further praised the team for “going above and beyond through their engagement with the general public and the creativity of their storytelling.”

‘Undermined and undersupported in home country’

In her acceptance speech, Masungi trustee Billie Dumaliang thanked the United Nations and the UN SDG Action Campaign for awarding Masungi “this incredible honor.” 

“You don’t know how much this means to us, at such a critical time when our work continues to be undermined and under-supported in our home country,” Dumaliang says. She dedicated the award to Masungi rangers and team, whom she said are the ones “getting their hands and feet dirty to defend our forests.” 

She also dedicated the award to the allies, partners, and the entire community who have helped the project endure. Lastly, she powerfully dedicated the award to the “quarry companies, land grabbers, and their enablers in government” which she said the team will continue to challenge.  

“To the people who have said that we are dreaming too big, that this is the way things have always been, and that we are pushing too far. This is for you. This is a reminder that we will not stop. That we will win in the end with our energy and creativity.” 

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According to Global Witness, the Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental defenders. Highlighting this during the awards, Dumaliang remarked that they are not only representing Masungi but all Filipinos who suffer the most from the climate crisis and all environment defenders, who are “risking their lives for our shared future.”

With a core team composed of youth members, the Masungi Georeserve powers the conservation and restoration of some 3,000 hectares of forest land located east of Metro Manila, including a highly sensitive karst landscape that serves as a natural filter for vital waterways; and portions of the Upper Marikina Watershed which provides crucial ecosystem services to millions of Filipinos in low- lying communities including the city capital.

Photo by Masungi Georeserve.

Heralded as one of the most innovative nature-based projects in the world, Masungi has won numerous international awards and recognition—the victory at the UN SDG Action Awards being the 10th. It is a landmark Filipino forest restoration project that has been lauded for its effective and sustainable models in conservation, engineering, community engagement, geotourism, and conservation financing. Previous global recognitions and awards include those from the United Nations (UN) Development Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature, National Geographic, UN World Tourism Organization, World Travel and Tourism Council, and the Global Water Partnership, among others.


Quarry companies pose the biggest threat

According to the Foundation, quarrying companies with Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) are currently the biggest threat to Masungi’s efforts. Masungi continues to call on the government to finally cancel the large-scale MPSAs covering more than 1,000 hectares of critical watershed and protected areas.

"These MPSAs are held by sister companies Rapid City and Quarry Rock, which possess multiple MPSAs in Rizal Province," Masungi Georeserve tells Esquire

Considered one of the last green frontiers near Metro Manila and a haven for unique biodiversity, the Masungi landscape faces threats of quarrying, deforestation, land grabbing, and illegal activities exacerbated by corruption.

Photo by Masungi Georeserve.

Starting only in 2017, the foundation’s reforestation initiative known as the Masungi Geopark Project has made significant progress with 68,000 native trees planted and nurtured, over 2,000 hectares of land rescued, 17 ranger stations and 18 kilometers of monitoring trails established, 100 rangers and 200 partners engaged, and over 200 households supported.

Photo by Masungi Georeserve.


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Call to act together

Meanwhile, Masungi congratulates the new Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga for her confirmation as environment chief. Under her leadership and with Masungi’s latest global win, the foundation is hopeful that action-driven, facts-based dialogue with the new DENR administration will happen soon. Masungi also hopes not only to dispel the disinformation within the agency but also to help them finally unite and act together as true public-private partners—for the forest and rangers who are in peril due to the illegal entities encroaching on the protected and conserved areas.  

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