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Masungi Gains a Powerful Ally: PNP Vows to Protect the Georeserve

PNP generals have vowed to defend Masungi against criminal forces.
IMAGE MASUNGI GEORESERVE
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The Masungi Georeserve Foundation is getting the commitment of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to crack down on criminality in the Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary and the surrounding Upper Marikina Watershed and to maximize the police’s response to threats to environmental defenders. 

Police Major General Valeriano De Leon and Masungi's Founder and President Ben Dumaliang Shake Hands

Masungi trustees and advisors held a dialogue and hosted a site visit with top generals and officials of the  PNP, represented by Police Major General Valeriano De Leon, Police Regional Office Calabarzon Director Gen. Eliseo Cruz, and Rizal Provincial Police Director PCol. Dominic  Baccay on Wednesday, February 2, 2022.

Masungi Project Manager Ann Dumaliang Presents About the Rare Flora and Fauna Found in Masungi

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It is the first time a high-level police delegation was sent to the Masungi Georeserve, a threatened karst landscape 45 kilometers east of Metro Manila. 

Masungi Georeserve is an award-winning geotourism site that began as a simple reforestation project two decades ago. The project involved restoring 400 hectares of denuded forests.

PNP Generals and Officers Trek the Steep Slopes and Rocks of Masungi

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Masungi Was A Barren Wasteland

No trees, no animals, and no flowers. That was what the Dumaliang family saw in Masungi before Ben Dumaliang, stepped in. 

It was Ben who started the massive and unprecedented reforestation and restoration project in the Masungi Georeserve. He had no idea his work would reap honors and awards two decades later. 

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PNP Will Swiftly Respond to Attacks and Criminal Activities

In the Masungi-PNP dialogue, the PNP said it would review previous incidents of attacks against environment defenders, promptly respond to reports of criminal activities, and explore designating police officers to collaborate with Masungi on protecting conservation sites. 

“We have had a lot of challenges with the PNP through the years; as I emphasized in the meeting,  we are more concerned about the future and that we become allies in the fight for climate and environmental justice,” Atty. Tony La Viña, environmental advocate, a human rights lawyer, and advisor to the Masungi Georeserve Foundation said. 

Ending Harassment Toward Masungi's Defenders

According to La Viña, Masungi's enemies were powerful land grabbers and quarry operators, among other threats. 

“We hope that this will be a new era for collaboration on environmental law enforcement and the protection of our team. The attacks, including violence and disinformation, are orchestrated by notorious land grabbers, quarry operators, and proponents of illegal structures, such as swimming pools, concrete fortresses, and gamefowl farms inside the Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary and Upper  Marikina Watershed. These unscrupulous groups intimidate and harass rangers and environmentalists so that they can go about their illegal activities unperturbed,” he said. 

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Two Masungi park rangers suffered gunshot wounds in July 2021 after returning to their stations from their nightly patrol. An owner of an illegal swimming pool resort that was expanding into the  Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape was identified as the main suspect. 

In 2021, Global Witness reported that the Philippines was the third most dangerous country in the world for environmental defenders, with 26 murdered in 2020 alone. Almost 30 percent of the attacks were said to be related to resource exploitation (logging, mining, and large-scale agribusiness), and hydroelectric dams, and other infrastructure. 

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