It was only an hour-long trek. But during that trek, the team behind Masungi Georeserve pushed everyone—including government officials from various agencies—to see as much of the damage that has been done to their forests with their own eyes. There were illegal structures and massacred trees. This became the background they chose for their words of protest on World Rainforest Day: a large sign that read, “Reforest now.”
It’s a message that the award-winning georeserve has been pushing publicly for a very long time, ever since they opened to the public in 2015. Masungi Georeserve is a conservation area and popular tourism destination in Baras, Rizal. The site is popular among travelers for its picturesque trails and rare wildlife species.
The landscape of the georeserve features unique karst limestone formations that cannot be accessed easily in the Philippines, but which also attracts illegal quarrying efforts that they have had to battle with for decades. Years ago, the site that Masungi Georeserve sits on was not much more than abused land. To this day, encroachers still persist.
From April to May of 2021, Masungi Georeserve reported fires in multiple sections of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL)—where they hold their reforestation sites—and aerial images revealed that more than 16 hectares of protected area were burned. On May 29, a team of conservationists went to the site of the burnings and reported “a tragic massacre of trees,” according to representatives from Masungi Georeserve.
As of date, 2,000 out of 2,700 hectares of abused land have been secured for reforestation by the georeserve. They’ve also now put in place up to 12 kilometers of trailers for monitoring, as well as checkpoints, and ranger stations.
“We’re not against development—we support sustainable development, which means knowing where you can and cannot do extractive activities,” says Billie Dumaliang, one of the trustees behind the georeserve. “This area is significant because of its wildlife, because of its geology, and it is irreplaceable. So all of these [illegal] activities should not happen inside Masungi or the watershed.”