PRESS RELEASE ON THE OPERATION OF MASUNGI GEORESERVE IN ANTIPOLO CITY AND THE MUNICIPALITIES OF TANAY AND BARAS, RIZAL
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Region IV-A received several complaints from the Indigenous Cultural Communities /Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) of the Municipality of Baras, Province of Rizal relative to the activities of the Masungi Georeserve which allegedly affected their peaceful enjoyment of their ancestral domain. This Office has long investigated the issues surrounding Masungi Georeserve and have confirmed that the latter has no Certification Precondition in compliance with Section 59 of Republic Act (RA) No. 8371 which states that:
SECTION 59. Certification Precondition. — All departments and other governmental agencies shall henceforth be strictly enjoined from issuing, renewing, or granting any concession, license or lease, or entering into any production-sharing agreement, without prior certification from the NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain. Such certification shall only be issued after a field-based investigation is conducted by the Ancestral Domains Office of the area concerned: Provided, That no certification shall be issued by the NCIP without the free and prior informed and written consent of ICCs/IPs concerned: Provided, further, That no department, government agency or government-owned or -controlled corporation may issue new concession, license, lease, or production sharing agreement while there is a pending application for a CADT: Provided, finally, That the ICCs/IPs shall have the right to stop or suspend, in accordance with this Act, any project that has not satisfied the requirement of this consultation process.
NCIP has coordinated with other government agencies, local and national, particularly with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on this matter. As a result of the various meetings, coordination and issuance of a Show Cause Order against Masungi Georeserve, the latter submitted an incomplete application for Certification Precondition (CP) on September 15, 2021. Thus, this Office issued a letter dated September 16, 2021 requiring them to submit the documents which they lack.
However, after almost six (6) months, Masungi Georeserve failed to submit the complete requirements for the processing of its CP application. During the pendency of its application, Masungi Georeserve allegedly continues to operate within the ancestral domains of the Dumagat/Remontado of Antipolo, Tanay and Baras, Rizal by virtue of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which they entered with DENR through the late Secretary Gina Lopez. The said MOA is not compliant with RA 8371 and they have been made aware of that fact. Moreover, aside from allegedly operating in violation of RA 8371 and the rights of the IPs, reports are made to this Office about the alleged employment of force, threats and violence against the ICCs/IPs living within the area of operation of Masungi Georeserve in order to compel the IPs to leave their home. This Office has likewise read numerous articles on social media, where these allegations of violence and threats were made and attested by ICCs/IPs, not once but many times, even on YouTube channels.
Thus, in response to the common clamor of the Dumagat/Remontado of the affected areas, NCIP Region IV-A calls out the attention of Masungi Georeserve to cease and desist from its operation and for the DENR to assist this Office in monitoring their compliance with the directive and for the former to fast track the processing of its Certification Precondition. Let your faithful compliance of the RA 8371 be an attestation of your commitment to protect the environment and respect the IPs who are the real stewards of the ancestral domains. As to the complainant ICCs/IPs, we have heard your collective appeal and we will serve your interest to our utmost best. Further appropriate actions shall be taken by this Office to ensure that the rights of our IPs are respected, enforced and protected.