Luntiang San Roque Association, Inc. (LSRA), composed of residents of So. San Roque, Brgy. Pinugay, Baras, Rizal within the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL), filed a petition to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the cancellation of the 2017 Memorandum of Agreement between the department and the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, Inc. (MGFI).

In his letter addressed to the DENR Undersecretary for Protected Areas and Special Concerns, LSRA President Erwin Lomio said they were in “peaceful possession” of their land until the “illegal issuance” of the MOA between the DENR, represented by then Secretary Gina Lopez, and MGFI, represented by Engr. Ben Dumaliang, on April 25, 2017.

Lomio said, as early as August 11, 2017, they wrote a petition addressed to then Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to declare the MOA null and void. He further mentioned that they submitted another petition on December 21, 2020 reiterating their previous request and citing also that Dumaliang had started fencing the road and creeks in their sitio.

He said MGFI has caused “continuous harassment” and “grave deterioration of the peace and order” in their area, and that Dumaliang “went beyond his authority by not recognizing the authorities of the barangay officers, local chief executives of the municipality of Baras and employees of PENRO Rizal”, especially, when MGFI founder started his fencing activities in September 2020.

“We fully recognize that the only solution to our current situation is the final determination of the DENR Secretary of the validity of the MOA,” LSRA President said, hoping for a positive development in their petitions.

In response, DENR CALABARZON Regional Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria directed the DENR-Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in Rizal to endorse the petition to the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of UMRPBL for its deliberation on its next meeting.

Section 11-A of the RA 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, as amended by RA 11038 or the Expanded NIPAS Act, provides that the PAMB have the powers and function to oversee the management of the protected area; adopt a manual of operations to include rules of procedures in the conduct of business, and the creation of committees and their respective terms of reference; and issue rules and regulations for the resolution of conflicts through appropriate and effective means.

Moreover, Rule 11.2 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of ENIPAS Act states that the PAMB en banc may, through the issuance of a resolution, by a majority vote of members present in a quorum, at a meeting called for such purpose, create a Committee on Conflict Resolution.###

(Photo source: Luntiang San Roque Association)