BuCor claims to own majority of Masungi Georeserve, relocates headquarters

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 17) — After the conservation area raised concerns over an ocular inspection in Masungi Georeserve, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Friday maintained that they have all the right to conduct any activity within the area.

According to Masungi Georeserve communications team, 270 of the 300 hectares or the majority of the georeserve is being claimed by BuCor.

"BuCor has all the right to conduct any activity in the area including the questioned ocular inspection that was conducted by our personnel," BuCor officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang said in a statement.

Despite the warning that the area is "mountainous and geologically unbuildable," BuCor stressed that they have secured necessary documents, such as Transfer Certificate of Title and Tax Declaration, to legally conduct activities within the area.

"Until and unless the title to the subject property and the name of BuCor has been nullified or cancelled through any of the legal means, the BuCor will continue with its plan," Catapang said.

The acting BuCor chief also cited a proclamation signed by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2006 which reserved 270 hectares of land in the area for the new site of the New Bilibid Prison.

But according to Masungi Georeserve, the proclamation can't terminate the Supplemental Agreement with Blue Star Construction and Development, which was signed in 2002 to expand the Masungi Georeserve project.

"A presidential proclamation cannot revoke vested rights arising from a valid contract… something was amiss. The President was deliberately misled," Masungi's statement read.

The conservation area argued that Lot 10, the land being claimed by BuCor, is already subjected to private rights after it entered into the contract.

On Thursday, Masungi Georeserve Foundation reported five cars and 20 men from the BuCor arrived in the area to conduct an "ocular inspection" of the alleged "relocation site of the New Bilibid Prison."

Meanwhile, Catapang clarified that the property will be used as a headquarters site and not a relocation facility of the national penitentiary.

He added that the agency also plans to build residential areas for BuCor's personnel and employees.

The Masungi Geopark Project — a 2,700-hectare reforestation project of Masungi with the DENR under the 2017 MGP Memorandum of Agreement — is one of the largest collaborative reforestation efforts in the country, aims to help solve the triple crises of biodiversity loss, climate change, and a looming water crisis through powerful youth-led movements.

READ: The fight to #SaveMasungi