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Masungi Georeserve calls for action, protection after shooting of 2 forest rangers

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Masungi Georeserve calls for action, protection after shooting of 2 forest rangers
A sign indicating the Masungi Geopark Project is a restricted area is seen in this February 6, 2021 photo.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 7:05 p.m.) — Two of Masungi Georeserve's forest rangers were shot on late Saturday, the conservation organization reported as it called for urgent protection and action against illegal encroachers inside the Upper Marikina Watershed. 

Masungi Georeserve said that two forest rangers stationed at its reforestation site in Baras, Rizal were shot late Saturday. One ranger was shot in the head, while the other was shot in the neck.

The shooting incident happened at a ranger station near GSB resort in Sitio San Roque in Brgy. Pinugay. The resort is one of the infrastructures said to be illegally occupying forestland in the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.

“This was made in the dark of the night, amid the rains and the floods, but there were already untoward incidents in the past several weeks such as the men in bonnets and the theft of our cameras last week,” Masungi trustee and advocacy officer Billie Dumaliang told Philstar.com.

In a statement, Masungi Georeserve said the organization was “devastated and enraged by this heinous act of violence and attempted murder against forest defenders.”

“We are calling for justice and protection for our team who risk their lives to defend our watersheds and forests 24/7,” it said on Facebook.

To prevent further encroachments and construction activities, additional ranger stations and checkpoints were earlier installed.

‘Don’t delay justice’

Dumaliang said the two rangers are still “waiting for operation.”

She said the perpetrator/s “must be held accountable for their actions and justice must never be delayed.”

In a statement, Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment called for an immediate and independent probe into the armed attack as “the latest attack was brazen and virtually in plain sight of police personnel.” Masungi said a Special Action Forces station was “just around the corner” from the site where the attack happened.

“So long as business owners of these destructive projects are not firmly prosecuted and punished, they will continue to be emboldened to perpetuate impunity,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Dumaliang said police and military personnel went to the site of the incident last night. Col. Joseph Arguelles, Rizal provincial police chief, told Philstar.com the case is still under investigation.

The Philippines has been consistently identified by watchdog Global Witness as among the deadliest countries for land and environmental defenders. 

Raps vs illegal establishments

The incident happened more than a week after the Department of the Interior and Local Government recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against several local officials and establishments over encroachment in the Upper Marikina Watershed.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said appropriate charges should be filed against responsible officials and entities for “wanton disregard and violation” of the following laws:

  • Upper Marikina Protected Landscape Declaration and RA 7586 or the National Integrated and Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act
  • Revised Forestry Code (PD 705)
  • Water Code of the Philippines
  • DENR Administrative Order 1993-33 (Masungi Strict Nature Reserve & Wildlife Sanctuary)

Masungi earlier sought an investigation into destructive activities and encroachments inside the watershed. It also called for security reinforcement and enhanced surveillance of the protected area.

Show-cause orders were earlier issued to resort owners and establishments.

The Upper Marikina Watershed is a protected area that forms the upper part of the drainage basin of the Marikina River. It covers areas in Antipolo City, Baras, Rodriguez, San Mateo and Tanay.

For conservationists, the watershed is an important protected area as it regulates water flow, and serves as habitats of threatened flora and fauna and ancestral domains of indigenous peoples. 

 

 

IPO AND UPPER MARIKINA WATERSHED MASUNGI GEORESERVE
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