MANILA – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued a show cause order asking a private company to explain why it fenced off a portion of the Masungi Georeserve, a protected forest area in Rizal province.
Speaking on ANC’s “Matters of Fact,” Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said it was giving Rublou Inc. until Thursday to respond and provide evidence of their claim on the area or else they would face charges.
“In this case, it’s very clear it’s a violation of our existing laws that a protected area can never be alienated by anybody,” he said.
Under Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992, the Masungi Georeserve is “protected against destructive human exploitation,” and construction of any kind of fence without a permit is prohibited.
Leones lamented that some groups have become bold in claiming land ownership due to monitoring limitations of the government because of a shortage in personnel.
“These people are really very used to doing this kind of illegal activities. Perhaps they're taking advantage of the limitations of the government in terms of monitoring these vast tracts of lands,” he said.
“But I think the law is very clear, our policy is very clear. It’s a matter of implementing and enforcing our environment laws. Of course, we could only do this if we have assistance or help from other groups.”
The Masungi Georeserve Foundation sounded the alarm over the weekend that parts of the protected area they are reforesting were fenced off by a group of armed guards.
While the fences have been removed, the foundation expressed concern the group would still come back, said Billie Dumaliang, its trustee and advocacy officer.
"We strongly condemn the use of force and these kinds of tactics to occupy forest land and to destroy our environment,” she told ANC.
The fenced off area, which is around 1,000 hectares, is part of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape and the Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary and Strict Nature Reserve, Dumaliang earlier told ABS-CBN News.
Under Proclamation No. 296 issued in 2001, the Marikina Watershed Reservation was declared a protected area and was renamed Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape. It was granted protection under the law.
In a statement issued Monday, Rublou Inc. said the fenced off area was part of an ancestral domain of the Dumagat-Remontados tribe.
It also claimed that it was not covered by the area set for conservation by the government. A statement issued by the supposed legal counsel of the tribe gave the same argument.
Rublou also clarified that its owner, retired general Luizo Ticman, is not claiming ownership of the land. Instead, Ticman is supposed to be helping the Dumagat-Remontados group.