No safe place against land grabbers [Part 2]

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THE squabble for land in what is supposedly an ancestral domain in Rizal between retired generals and wealthy businessmen is something that the national government should seriously look into.

The clash sees the indigenous people belonging to the Dumagat and Remontados tribe at the losing end as the protagonists engage in a tug-of-war over control over a vast tract of ancestral domain belonging to the tribesmen.

Reports had a retired Philippine National Police general wielding firepower go against a wealthy businessman embarking on money and government connections.

The protagonists — Masungi Georeserve and Rublou Inc., are both claiming to be protecting the environment from being exploited. The area, which falls well within the Marikina Watershed, is home to over 400 species of flora and fauna, 40,000 indigenous trees and an abundant deposit of limestone.

Behind the Masungi Georeserve is the Blue Star Construction and Development Corporation and the Masungi Georeserve Foundation, which runs the Masungi Georeserve, a conservation area in Baras, Rizal. At the extreme end of the tussle are the Rublou Inc., reportedly owned by retired police General Luizo Ticman and its subsidiary, Green Atom. 

The operators of Masungi and Rublou Inc., are actually slugging off for the control of some 26,000 hectare area encompassing the Upper Marikina River Basin.

According to Rublou Inc., they bought the land from the Dumagats, who confirmed such a transaction.

Masungi Georeserve for its part cited a memorandum of agreement that they signed with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which legitimized their “environment conservation activities” in the area.

The Dumagats however hinted the Masungi Georeserve as just a front of the Blue Star Construction and Development Corporation, which the tribesmen claimed as extracting mineral deposits in the area, adding that the place currently being controlled by the Masungi Georeserve has been transformed into a high-end recreational facility, charging a minimum of P15,000 for a group of five persons just to see the limestone formation inside the compound.

The tribesmen also wondered if the government is able to collect taxes out of Blue Star’s revenue-generating scheme.

Both Masungi Georeserve and Rublou have no legal ascendancy over the area in the absence of documents covering legal tenure at the disputed area, says the DENR in an earlier report.

DENR Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Ricardo L. Calderon, was quoted to have said that both Blue Star and Rublou are technically without proper tenure in UMRBPL.

The same report quoted the DENR official as categorically stating that Upper Marikina River Basin, a Protected Area (PA) under existing Philippine laws, is “not for sale.”

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