Tanay Tribes Petition DENR to Rescind Agreement with Masungi Georeserve Amid Controversy

Tanay tribes petition DENR to revoke Masungi Georeserve agreement, citing lack of consultation and transparency concerns over the resort project in a protected area.

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Salman Akhtar
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Tanay Tribes Petition DENR to Rescind Agreement with Masungi Georeserve Amid Controversy

Tanay Tribes Petition DENR to Rescind Agreement with Masungi Georeserve Amid Controversy

The Tanay tribes in Rizal Province have petitioned Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to revoke a 2017 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DENR and Masungi Georeserve, claiming a lack of consultation. The MOA granted the Masungi Georeserve Foundation (MGF) a 'perpetual land trust' over the 2,700-hectare protected area, which is now the site of a resort.

The Katutubong Pamayanan ng Tanay Dumagat/Remontado tribe asserts that their rights have been violated as they were not consulted about the agreement. Meanwhile, Blue Star Construction and Development Corporation, the construction company behind the resort, has billed the DENR over ₱1 billion for the project in the protected Upper Marikina River Basin.

Concerns have been raised about the transparency and legality of the project, as the key officers and stockholders of Blue Star and the MGF are the same individuals. The DENR has stated that Blue Star has no legal basis for its claim of over ₱1 billion in arrears from the government, which the company says are due to the DENR's failure to deliver a 10-hectare parcel of land for the National Bilibid Prison.

A DENR investigation committee found the billings by Blue Star to be unwarranted, as the contracts entered into by the company had legal issues. The DENR also noted that the Masungi Georeserve Foundation lacks the necessary clearances and permits, including free and prior consent from the ancestral domain owners and the National Commission for Indigenous People.

Why this matters: The controversy surrounding the Masungi Georeserve resort highlights the importance of proper consultation with indigenous communities and adherence to environmental regulations in protected areas. The outcome of this dispute could set a precedent for future development projects in ancestral domains and ecologically sensitive regions.

In response to the DENR's allegations, Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. (MGFI) president Ben Dumaliang challenged Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga to substantiate her claims, including the supposed presence of a resort on the protected area. Dumaliang stated that if Yulo-Loyzaga cannot come and substantiate her claims, she should resign. MGFI clarified that the Masungi Georeserve is a non-profit conservation initiative and not a resort, and that the statement of account from Blue Star is a record of expenses incurred due to the DENR's failure to deliver on its contractual obligations. Environmental groups have urged the DENR to explore formal negotiations and hold a dialogue with the MGFI to strengthen the 2017 agreement, which the DENR recently said was void from the beginning based on the opinion of the Department of Justice.

Key Takeaways

  • Tanay tribes petition DENR to revoke 2017 MOA with Masungi Georeserve over lack of consultation.
  • Blue Star claims over ₱1B from DENR for project in protected Upper Marikina River Basin.
  • DENR investigation finds Blue Star's billings unwarranted, Masungi lacks necessary clearances and permits.
  • Controversy highlights importance of indigenous consultation and environmental regulations in protected areas.
  • MGFI challenges DENR claims, urges formal negotiations to strengthen 2017 agreement.