Caritas PH voices concern over plan to scrap Masungi Georeserve deal

April 7, 2024 - 10:38 AM
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Masungi Georeserve
The "spider web" at the Masungi Georeserve. (Philstar.com file photo)

Caritas Philippines, the Catholic Church’s social action and advocacy arm, has raised concerns about a plan to cancel the agreement that established the Masungi Georeserve Project.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Caritas’ vice president, said the proposed move “is unwise and would be detrimental to environmental protection efforts”.

“We are concerned about the real impact of this cancellation,” Alminaza said. “This is a time when the government should be supporting successful initiatives, not hindering them.”

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recommended cancelling a 2017 deal between the agency and the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc.

During the Senate hearing on Wednesday, DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said the advocacy organization’s contract to conserve a protected area is “void” from the very beginning.

Masungi Georeserve is a 2,700-hectare conservation area situated in the southern Sierra Madre range in Rizal province’s Baras town.

The national Caritas emphasized that the success of the award-winning reforestation project is a testament to its positive impact.

It also echoed Masungi Georeserve’s statement that the move seems to favor “large-scale fraudulent claimants, land grabbers, quarries and swimming pool resorts” rather than the people and the environment.

The organization urged the DENR to instead explore alternative solutions, including formal negotiations and open dialogue.

“Caritas Philippines joins Masungi Georeserve in raising concerns that the cancellation could be a way to avoid the DENR’s obligation to remove illegal occupants from the protected area, including those with government ties,” Alminaza said.

He also urged the public to stand together against this “unwise” decision and fight for the preservation of the Masungi Geopark Project.