Palace orders DENR probe on illegal activities in Rizal watershed

Politics

Malacañang on Tuesday directed a task force in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to investigate alleged illegal activities within the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL) in Rizal province.

This, after environmentalists and concerned citizens asked the government to cancel quarrying agreements within the 26,126-hectare UMRBPL over concerns that these activities could worsen the extent of flooding in low-lying reaches of the Upper Marikina Watershed, including the cities and communities of Metro Manila and Rizal Province.

Acting presidential spokesperson and Communications secretary Martin Andanar acknowledged the need for the government to protect the country’s natural resources.

“Safeguarding the environment and natural resources is an important component in our sustainable development,” he said in a press statement.

He expressed concern over reports of alleged development activities, which include resort expansion, in the Marikina Watershed.

“We urge the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force to look into the matter and file the necessary charges against violators of environmental law,” he added.

In a joint letter to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and acting Environment chief Jim Sampulna, over 30 environment and education leaders said the DENR has not issued a formal cancellation of Mineral Production Sharing agreements despite pronouncements of former Environment secretary Roy Cimatu, who resigned in February.

“The imperative to put environmental conservation first and to work with different sectors to protect and restore the Upper Marikina Watershed and the Masungi landscape is clear. Quarrying must be stopped. Conservation must proceed,” the letter read.

They said the ecosystem restoration efforts of Masungi and other non-government organizations must be fully supported and expanded as they play a crucial role in providing vital oversight in forest and biodiversity protection.

Signatories of the letter include environmental lawyer Tony Oposa, former Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn, and De La Salle Brothers provincial superior Bro. Armin Luistro.

Earlier, the conservation group Masungi Georeserve Foundation raised the alarm about the construction and expansion of resorts and a number of fires within the protected landscape.

The Masungi Georeserve, which is located around 47 kilometers east of Metro Manila, is a conservation area and a rustic rock garden that is part of the UMRBPL.

The UMRBPL, which covers 26,126 hectares in Rizal province, plays an important role in regulating the flow of water towards the highly urbanized National Capital Region.

Despite being declared a protected landscape, threats such as illegal logging, quarrying and mining activities, and construction of establishments such as resorts persist.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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