Senator Raffy Tulfo is disappointed with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) because it hasn’t been able to quickly fix the security and control issues at the Masungi Georeserve in Rizal.
During the Senate deliberation on the DENR budget, Senator Tulfo called out the Department for not doing enough to address the unauthorized and unlawful activities happening in the conservation area, including the recent gunning incidents that have been happening.
“Marami na nga po talagang nagyaring katiwalian diyan sa Masungi, pero nagbulag-bulagan at nagbingi-bingihan lamang ang DENR,” he said.
20 Armed men were spotted
Tulfo recalled that two forest rangers were shot on July 24, 2021, and that more than 20 armed men were spotted camped in the area last September 2022. As the DENR chose to suspend rather than cancel the Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) given to the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, Inc. (MGFI), Tulfo recalled that two forest rangers were shot in the head and the neck on July 24, 2021.
Despite these grave concerns, DENR consistently declined to take any action, claiming that Masungi and the land claimants were at odds. Tulfo considered the DENR’s justification that they cannot take anything since it is a police case unsatisfying.
Regardless of who was linked, Tulfo stated that when there is a crime involved, the government is supposed to act quickly, and in this situation, DENR is expected to lead activities conducted in the protected region.
The Senator from Isabela and Davao then offered that the DENR might use its ₱13.9-million intelligence funds under its planned 2023 budget to fix the challenges at the Masungi Georeserve.
“With this amount, kaya niyo po sigurong mag-tap ng network of intelligence para alamin sino-sino ang mga grupong nanggugulo sa loob ng Masungi. Kailangan po nating mapalayas ang mga armed groups diyan kasi even as we speak, nandoon pa rin po ang mga armed groups, pagala-gala,” he said.
According to accounts he got, Tulfo claimed that Masungi’s rangers only had 9mm weapons, making it difficult for them to combat the vicious guys residing illegally in the reserve. He claimed that the armed men were armed with M16 and M023 rifles.
Clean The Department
Loyzaga says that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is already investigating the matter with the leadership of Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. Tulfo ordered Loyzaga to clean the department as corruption continues to be rife in DENR, which could be the source of the still-unresolved issue in Masungi, and to provide his office with reports or updates regarding the situation within a week.
“Alam ko pong gusto niyong mapatino ang inyong departamento. If you want to clean it, do it. Umpisahan niyo po sa paglilinis sa mga taong humahawak ng critical positions,” he said.
In addition to responding to Masungi’s concerns, Tulfo gave Loyzaga instructions to concentrate on the plight of indigenous people (IPs) in Rizal and Quezon who allegedly had to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) for the Kaliwa Dam deal that will force them to leave their current homes.
“Pinipilit Silang Pumirma”
While Loyzaga said that P1M was offered per family, Tulfo alleged that IPs were instead offered to utilize the said money to purchase a house and land, thereby undervaluing them.
“In so many ways, tinatakot po sila, pinipilit silang pumirma at napipilitan na lang sila dahil may kasamang naka-civilian pero may nakasukbit na baril habang pumipirma sila. Kailangan alam ninyo lahat ng transakyon na nagaganap na may kinalaman sa environment jurisdiction ninyo.
“This is your jurisdiction. I really need you to focus attention sa kalagayan ng IPs dahil walang ibang makakatulong sa kanila kung hindi ang gobyerno. Paano kung pati gobyernong dapat nagpoprotekta sa kanila, ay ang mismong lumalapastangan sa kanilang mga karapatan?,” said he.
Started in 2019, the Kaliwa Dam is a controversial bulk water supply project which is a component of the New Centennial Water Source program of the MWSS.