(UPDATE) The Masungi Georeserve has declared that the armed men who set foot into the conservation area have already left.
“Today, our forests won, like a long drought welcoming its first drops of rain,” the Masungi Georeserve said in a statement on its official website on Friday.
Earlier this month, around 30 armed men camped along Kilometer 58 of the Maharlika-Infanta Highway, particularly Lot 10 of the Georeserve.
Masungi thanked the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. for visiting the area and siding with environmental defenders.
“We found champions in DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos and PNP Chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr., who have demonstrated today that they are firmly on the side of environmental protection and the safety of its defenders,” Masungi stated. “Majority of the invaders were no longer around just before the Secretary’s party came on-site.”
The Masungi Georeserve Foundation thanked Abalos and his staff for inspecting the site.
“With his commitment to protecting these areas, we look forward to working with him to bolster our efforts in reforesting and defending our conservation sites,” the statement said.
The georeserve also thanked Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros for calling an inquiry into the “armed invasion.”
“Our gratitude goes to Sen. Risa Hontiveros for her initiative to call an inquiry into the anomalous and violent incidents in Masungi’s conserved areas, bringing even more sense of urgency on the matter,” the statement added.
Masungi also called on the public to continue urging the national government to look into “anomalous and syndicated” activities around the area.
“This is not the end; this is just the beginning. We know that we will continue to sustain various forms of attacks after this, so we seek your continued support to help us power through. Our conservation work continues, in Lot 10 and other areas entrusted to us,” the georeserve’s statement wrote.
Azurin, meanwhile, ordered the probe on the alleged harassment and assault on one of Masungi Georeserve’s caretakers.
“An investigation is also underway to identify possible violations of the group responsible for the alleged deployment of the armed men. What we are advocating for is to avoid any tension or violence from arising,” Azurin said.
“Our security is tight. We are also constantly coordinating with the DENR and local government units. The PNP will continue to implement a sustained police presence at the Masungi Georeserve in Tanay, Rizal.”
Police Regional Office-4A director BGen. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr. has previously released a statement to restore the sense of normalcy at Masungi amid the reported presence of security armed personnel in the protected area.
“Teams from Rizal Provincial Mobile Force Company, Baras and Tanay PNP were deployed to conduct 24-hour patrol and visibility to ensure peace and order in Masungi,” Nartatez said.
The Masungi Georeserve was created in 1977 through Proclamation 1636 by then president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
WITH REPORTS FROM ROSELLE AQUINO