Senate probe sought on shooting of two Masungi Georeserve forest rangers

Senate probe sought on shooting of two Masungi Georeserve 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 — Sen. Risa Hontiveros is calling on the Senate to launch an inquiry into the shooting of two forest rangers of Masungi Georeserve in Barras, Rizal. 

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

The incident occurred 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 violence is unacceptable. The Masungi forest rangers have dedicated themselves to preserving and defending our environment, but unscrupulous individuals have attempted to take their lives," Hontiveros said. 

She filed proposed Senate Resolution No. 806 calling on the upper chamber's environment committee to open a probe into the incident. 

“The need to protect our forest guards cannot be understated. The country only has [one] forest guard for every 4,000 forest hectares, despite the ideal ratio being 1 for every 500 hectares," Hontiveros said. "The protectors of our environment cannot be harmed by the greed of a few."

She emphasized that these attacks follow a succession of suspicious activities at the watershed, including the illegal building of additional structures. The senator also noted private firms' stationing of guards in the area which they claim to have bought for private use. 

READ: DILG pushes raps vs officials for destruction of protected watershed areas

Hontiveros further cited data from Hansel Global Forest which bares that only around 23% to 24% of forest cover is left in the Upper Marikina Watershed. She said this figure continued to drop even after its declaration as a protected area in 2011. 

“In December 2020, during the Senate hearing led by the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change, I also flagged land-grabbing and deforestation activities in Masungi, which were suspected to have caused the severe flooding after the onslaught of Typhoon Rolly and Ulysses," Hontiveros said. 

"We are stormed and are flooded every year. Every year someone loses a home or a loved one," she added in Filipino. "Let’s be serious in our mission of preserving our environment, lest the Philippines lose more than we already lost." 

— Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico 

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