Tales of songs of unity for the environment:

THE Masungi Georeserve is a Philippine conservation area situated in the southern Sierra Madre range in Baras, Rizal. It is a 46,310-hectare land of the public domain and embraced are parts of Bulacan, Laguna and Quezon. As a conservation area, it is closed to mining, exploration, development and other activities that might upset its habitat and ecological balance.

Be that as it may, mention should be made of the fact that when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources by virtue of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 (Republic Act [RA] 7586 or Nipas) designated the area as a strict nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary, the Masungi Georeserve and its surrounding areas were already deforested and plagued with land grabbing, illegal logging and threats of large-scale quarrying despite prohibition.

Among the subsequent development restoration projects affected was the planned conversion of the georeserve into a conservation park. Apart from the geo-park tourist attractions that gained much interest for a while were giant hammocks, eco-trails, man-made steel platforms to view limestones engraved into the mountains of Sierra Madre. Globally, the Masungi Georeserve became recognized for its thriving flora and fauna coupled with conservation reforestation and promotion of biodiversity activities as envisioned by the late Gina Lopez when she was environment secretary.

Despite its efforts, however, Masungi Georeserve became the subject of harassment that endangered not only the peace of the protected area but also the lives of innocent park rangers and stakeholders. Worse is the continuing illegal quarrying, squatting and fencing activities that have resulted in irreversible damage to the soil and plants aside from driving animals out of the area. By extracting rocks and minerals from the earth’s surface, quarrying increases the risk of flooding, landslides, water loss and biodiversity loss.

There is an abundance of legal processes and procedures applicable to the Masungi Georeserve conservation. Among those are the Rules of Procedure on Environmental Cases; the Continuing Writ of Mandamus; and the Environmental Impact Assessment System.

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To date, the Masungi Georeserve remains a protected area under the Nipas Act. But for many, the question persists — “Is the Masungi Georeserve really a place to preserve biodiversity or is it merely a place reserved for exploitation?”

Kaliwa Dam

The water crisis of 2016 brought forth another source to supplement the water needs of Metro Manila — Kaliwa Dam.

As manifested years ago by the Metropolitan Water Sewerage System (MWSS), the Kaliwa Dam project begins with a 60-meter concrete dam at Kaliwa which straddles the boundaries in the uplands of Quezon and Rizal provinces in the east of Manila as well as a 25-kilometer conveyance tunnel and two treatment plants.

Unknown to many is the fact that as early as 1968, Presidential Proclamation 573 had already declared the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve where the dam is to be constructed as a forest reserve. Moreover, Proclamation 1636 (1977) entitled “Declaring as a National Park, Wildlife Sanctuary and Game Preserve a Certain Parcel of Land of the Public Domain Embraced and Situated in the Province of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Quezon, Island of Luzon,” declared a portion of the watershed as a National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.

In 1992, by virtue of RA 7586, or Nipas Act, the area where the dam was to be constructed had become a “protected area.” (Briefly, the Kaliwa Dam project, as thought of, will submerge a huge portion of the Kaliwa watershed.)

Public discussions at the time zeroed in on the fact that as a National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, the forests and coastlines described in Proclamation 1636 (1977) are key habitats of species of amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles. Add more the fact that the Kaliwa watershed vegetation provides hectares of residual forests with recorded plant/floral species.

The concern for the relocation of Indigenous communities identified as Dumagats and Remontados under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA, or RA 8371 (1997) was taken note of.

(NB: The P12.2-billion New Centennial Water Source Kaliwa Project will be completed by mid-2026 and will be able to supply water to Metro Manila households and nearby areas by early 2027, according to the MWSS. The loan project is funded by China through official development assistance.)

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