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Again, the Masungi Georeserve

Manila Standard

Something is simmering in the Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal, a protected forest reserve 52 kilometers east of Manila.

In 2023, there was an uproar surrounding it which involved the discovered construction by a Singapore-based company – thanks to conservationists monitoring the area – of four drilling rigs operating massive wind turbines within the ostensibly protected wildlife sanctuary.

The construction equipment belongs to a company building a wind farm within the reserve, which claimed to have received the necessary permits although the area has a protected status.

Masungi Georeserve Foundation, Inc., the nonprofit organization managing the site, launched a petition calling for the project to be canceled, saying renewable energy generation should not be pursued at the expense of the environment.

The Masungi Karst Conservation Area, declared a strict nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary since 1993, is home to more than 400 wildlife species.

Drone images from 2023 captured by the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, Inc., the nonprofit organization that manages the site, showed Rizal Wind Energy Corp., owned by a Singapore-based energy developer, was behind the construction, drilling to build 12 wind turbines as part of a renewable energy project.

The Masungi issue gets into sharper focus after the Office of the Ombudsman ordered a preventive suspension against Bohol Gov. Erico Aris Aumentado and 68 other officials from different government agencies over the construction and operation of the controversial Captain’s Peak Resort on Chocolate Hills.

Officials are suspended for six months without pay, based on the order signed by Edilberto Sandoval, Special Prosecutor and Ombudsman Officer-In-Charge on May 22.

The Masungi issue is getting more interesting after the construction company that built the resort in the environmentally protected Upper Marikina River Basin billed the government more than P1 billion supposedly for its failure to deliver lands in the government’s own territory.

The latest statement of account sent by Blue Star Construction and Development Corporation to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources dated April 11 cited expenses incurred from the “unrealized delivery” by the agency of a 10-hectare parcel of land allocated for the National Bilibid Prisons.

The billing cited legal, security, and miscellaneous expenses, damages incurred from the delay of the delivery of the lot, and even a monthly rental of P100,000 paid to a “professional squatter.”

The statement also indicated the expenses were incurred starting in June 2018.

According to the DENR Investigation Committee formed in 2019, the billings by Blue Star are without legal basis.

“The contracts entered into by BSCDC (Blue Star) had legal infirmities ranging from unlawful excise of land for housing purposes in a National Park to award of contracts without bidding,” the Committee stated.

Like the surprised Alice in Wonderland, who found the pool was getting quite crowded with the birds and animals that had fallen into it, things at Masungi Georeserve getting `Curiouser and curiouser!’

The Masungi breeze is being keenly observed.

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