Mt. Susong Dalaga, Baras, Rizal – Park rangers discover a fresh, well-hidden treasure pit in the vicinity of Mt. Susong Dalaga within the Masungi Geopark Project site as well as the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBLP).
Multiple layers of bamboo poles, tarpaulin and earth concealed the pit which can hold several people. The pit is about three meters deep and five meters wide.
It was discovered that this pit was dug by the same group of people earlier apprehended by park rangers, police and military in the act of illegally entering the conservation site, cutting trees and vegetation and repeatedly disrupting restoration activities by park rangers.
A Rampant Scheme
Perpetrators claim they signed a Memorandum of Agreement in 2015 with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Provincial Environment Officer (DENR PENRO) for Rizal for the “reforestation” of twenty hectares of land.
However, the site has long been off-limits to tenurial instruments via multiple memorandums by DENR Secretaries due to its reserve status.
Since the site is inextricably part of the Upper Marikina Watershed and now the Masungi Geopark Project, occupation, cutting of trees, kaingin and extractive activities are expressly prohibited by law.
The presence of treasure pits shows that the alleged MOA is purely a scheme to conceal the conduct of illegal activities such as treasure-hunting, land grabbing, and cutting of trees – a
manifestation of the widespread and methodical abuse of our land management system.
Threat to Conservation
Research shows that illegal, unregulated and disguised treasure-hunting is also present in other protected areas in the country. It is one of the imminent threats to biodiversity and conservation together with urbanization, wildlife poaching and mining.
The site of the treasure pit is found inside the area of the Masungi Geopark Project, a pioneering agreement between the Masungi Georeserve Foundation and the Central DENR to conserve in perpetuity vulnerable lands and mountains surrounding the famous Masungi Georeserve.
The Foundation and its partners vow to hold the perpetrators accountable in the applicable fora and to double efforts to protect the project site from similar cases. It will also soon launch as social campaign against treasure hunting and other related threats to conservation.