70 environmental leaders urge Marcos to defend Masungi project from termination

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) — Seventy environmental leaders urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on World Environment Day to defend the Masungi Geopark Project from looming threats of contract termination.

In an open letter released Monday, top environmental officials from various sectors appealed to the Marcos administration to protect the 2,700-hectare reforestation project and its defenders from continued deforestation by “unabated operation of syndicates.”

“We strongly oppose the apparently orchestrated attempt to stop the Masungi Geopark Project, a path-breaking conservation initiative in the Marikina and Kaliwa protected areas, the two watersheds with the greatest impact to the country,” the letter read.

The group cited recent reports that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking at canceling its 2017 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. (MGFI) that brought forth the Masungi Geopark Project, which has been lauded for its conservation efforts.

READ: Masungi caretakers receive award from United Nations

The MGFI and former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez signed the 2017 deal to restore the degraded forest in Baras, Rizal, and stop deforestation in the area.

“With a mere 11-20% of the forest cover left in the Upper Marikina Watershed, the contribution of the Masungi Geopark Project is invaluable,” they said.

Questionable features

“There is no doubt that there has been good work done by this group,” Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said in a press briefing later in the day, referring to the MGFI.

“However there are certain features of this agreement (MOA) that really bring it into question,” she said. “And because of those features, we will need to take appropriate action.

Loyzaga also clarified that the DENR did not mention “cancellation of contract,” instead the agency is reviewing these “features” that she failed to specify.

Asked what would happen if the reforestation project is terminated, Loyzaga mentioned the DENR’s TRANSFORM project, which she said will engage all local government units (LGUs), key academic institutions, and private and public stakeholders.

TRANSFORM introduces to LGUs ways to combat climate emergencies through awareness about biodiversity, greenhouse gas accounting, and disaster management. 

“This will be a whole-of-government, whole-of-society effort, not just the effort of a single organization and entity. In fact, we all are part of the environment and not just one foundation,” Loyzaga said.