Masungi Georeserve condems threat to conservationist and untruthful statements by Rublou Inc. and Green Atom; calls for the immediate removal of private guards from the Upper Marikina Watershed

November 15, 2020 3:08 pm

November 15, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Masungi Georeserve Foundation condemns threat to conservationist and untruthful statements by Rublou Inc. and Green Atom; calls for the immediate removal of private guards from the Upper Marikina Watershed

Baras, Rizal — Two weeks after Rublou (and its renewable energy subsidiary Green Atom) fenced and deployed armed guards inside the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape, it appears even clearer now that it does not have any legitimate basis nor authority to do so. Since the dismantling of fences and structures by the DENR and Masungi park rangers on October 25, 2020, Rublou’s guards inside the protected area have more than doubled. The guards reportedly continue to patrol at least 500 hectares of the watershed.

“We are very disturbed by this latest development right on the heels of the devastation of Ulysses, which is brought about by the denudation and abuse of the Upper Marikina Watershed,” Ann Dumaliang, Managing Trustee, remarked.

On November 9, 2020, suspicious movements by unidentified and unpermitted individuals prompted a pursuit with army conservation partners until 2:00 AM. This morning, one of our managing trustees, a National Geographic explorer and United Nations awardee, was threatened with harm by Rublou’s guards, wherein the guards also suggested that “PENRO” was allegedly “working against Masungi.” An indigenous group from Antipolo deny involvement with Rublou’s actions

In a statement dated October 30, 2020 signed by 24 tribal elders, chieftains, and officers, the Tribong Dumagat-Remontados ng Antipolo denied involvement in the deployment of armed guards by Rublou Inc. This invalidates Rublou’s Official Statement dated October 26, 2020 where it claimed that the tribe asked for “help in the deployment of security guards.”

Rublou also released another statement entitled “Official Statement of the Dumagat-Remontados” signed by an Atty. Juancho Botor, who claimed he is the tribe’s “legal counsel”. The statement alleged that the tribe asked Mr. Luizo Ticman, owner of Rublou, for “funding to buy arms to protect themselves.” Instead of buying arms, Mr. Ticman allegedly “engaged the services of licensed security guards [from 2018] up until the present.”

The Tribong Dumagat-Remontados ng Antipolo in their authentic Official Statement dated October 30, 2020 denied that Atty. Juancho Botor is their legal counsel. It, therefore, appears that the statements released by Rublou and Green Atom dated October 26, 2020, contain allegations that are false and untrue.

With no Permits, Removal of Rublou sought

Despite repeated requests, Rublou and Green Atom still could not present any legal document or permit to justify their occupation and actions within the watershed. Even before the Masungi Geopark, the joint reforestation project of Masungi and the DENR, the UMRBPL has already declared a protected area in 2011 and occupation, sale, disposition, and other destructive activities therein have been prohibited since 1904 due to its importance as a watershed reservation.

We call on our President Duterte and our partners at the DENR led by Secretary Cimatu to protect the integrity of this critical watershed by immediately causing Rublou to vacate the protected area including the patch of Benguet pine trees grown by the government in the 1970’s.

A Show Cause Order was reportedly issued on October 26, 2020 by the PENRO Rizal. The DENR mandated that Rublou would only be given three days to present their documents. It is now more than two weeks from that deadline. To assist the DENR in environmental enforcement, we also urge the National Bureau of Investigation and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to help investigate and address the wholesale buying and selling of forest land and land scams in the protected area, as a matter of national interest and welfare. This shall be made in conjunction with the President’s renewed drive against corruption. We believe it is in the interest of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the entire Philippine renewable energy industry to review the integrity of Green Atom’s renewable energy projects given the business practices and ethics it displays.

Why is this Important?

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable nations to the harrowing effects of climate change, and protecting our people starts with protecting the integrity of our forests and ecosystems which shield us from floods, landslides, and pandemics. The presence of armed guards and arbitrary occupation of forest land pose a threat to the safety park rangers and volunteers and disrupt urgent restoration work. In the past months and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, rising cases of illegal logging, charcoal-making, and illegal occupation have been monitored in
reforestation areas, necessitating increased monitoring and protection efforts in high-risk zones.

The Masungi Geopark aims to restore and rewild 2,700 hectares of degraded land around the Masungi limestone formation. Less than 10% forest cover can be observed in the northern portion of the project site where Rublou operates. The project uses the “Assisted Natural Regeneration” approach which is centered on the principle that nature can reheal itself when it is left undisturbed. This means that site protection from encroachments is a prerequisite to native tree planting and nurturing. These actions can accelerate the regeneration process by
up to 50%.

For breaking inertia in watershed rehabilitation and speaking truth to power in campaigns against illegal quarrying and occupation, Masungi was recently announced as one of the 12 global Water Changemakers Award finalists to be
honored at a High-Level Awards Ceremony in the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.The Masungi Geopark and Ancestral Domain The Masungi team met with the Dumagat-Remontados of Antipolo and learned that an estimated 500 hectares of the 2,700-hectare Masungi Geopark project site were included in their application for a 13,000-hectare Ancestral Domain Title(CAD-T).

The Masungi Georeserve Foundation reiterated its commitment to respect the rights of the indigenous group within parts of the Masungi Geopark that is covered by their ongoing application for a CAD-T. It looks forward to working with the group for the conservation of critical sections of the Upper Marikina Watershed, a declared 26,000-hectare protected area that is in need of urgent care and restoration from decades of illegal logging, land speculation, abuse, and neglect.

“As we demand Rublou to respect the rule of law in our protected areas, Masungi Georeserve will continue to fearlessly report any violations that it sees on the ground in pursuit of genuine biodiversity conservation and landscape restoration. We thank all of our partners and advocates for helping us make this possibledespite the odds,” Ann Dumaliang, Managing Trustee, said.

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Contact: communications@masungigeoreserve.com