I have yet to visit the Masungi Georeserve. But I have seen it several times on Youtube.
My 10-year-old granddaughter visited the place last year in a field trip organized by her school. She was raving about it, and has since become very interested in environmental conservation.
The family went after a few months to a campsite in Tanay, where my grandkids learned about life outside the urban sprawl where they grew up — kindling a fire, sleeping in a tent without air-conditioning, fetching water from a nearby brook, and breathing fresh air.
Last year, we read Masungi was in the headlines because some armed men who must have been agents of a land developer or a quarry company, parked their unwanted selves inside, claiming part of the georeserve for their private destruction.
Now it is the controversy-laden Bureau of Corrections, devoid of a Bantag and now headed by a Catapang, which wants to build its headquarters and housing for personnel in some 270 hectares of the area.
Twenty BuCor personnel went to Masungi upon orders of Catapang to conduct an inspection of their future “development” site.
Catapang has a newly minted original certificate of title dated September 22, 2022, based on Presidential Proclamation 1158 issued by then PGMA on September 8, 2006, for use as the new site of the New Bilibid Prison which now occupies about the same area of land in Muntinglupa.
Government, then and now, is looking at privatizing the present site of NBP to raise revenues. The area, once farmland, has become part of a metropolis that keeps crying out for land for people to dwell in.
What we used to call Munti has since become prime real estate in a rent economy, coveted by the rich and entitled.
DOJ Secretary Boying Remulla, who has announced a policy of regionalizing our prisons system, transferring the main jail in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, already a penal colony since yesteryears, now supports his BuCor director’s plan to hold office at Masungi, far from Sablayan.
Why in heaven’s name should supervisors be far from the supervised? Move both HQ and prison to Sablayan, for chrissakes.
The national penitentiary also has long-reserved sites in Iwahig, Puerto Princesa, in Davao del Norte, San Ramon in Zamboanga City, and Abuyog in Leyte.
There was a time when the huge army reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija, on part of which stands Fort Magsaysay, was eyed as a transfer site for the Munti penitentiary.
One wonders why Catapang wants Masungi for office headquarters, including the award of residential plots to their officials and employees, so far away from the penitentiary?
Catapang has averred that the Masungi area will not be a penitentiary, and no prisoners will be housed therein, just offices and residences.
Wow! He wants to be like justices of the Supreme Court who have Baguio City offices and residences where they meet during the hot summer months?
Masungi is not as cool as Baguio, but it certainly is cooler than Munti.
Masungi should be a tad colder that the highlands of Tanay before retired generals got titles or tax declarations to government land and parked themselves, their fighting cocks, and now weekend resorts thereat.
What used to be beautiful scenery has now become a hodgepodge of commercial and residential areas, sooner than soon densely populated as well.
That is what will happen to the Masungi Georeserve, its flora and fauna now conserved well by a foundation under an agreement with the DENR in 2002. It is part of the wooded landscape that protects the Upper Marikina watershed.
There is so much more government property in Region 4 if the justice secretary wants to have a prison compound other than in Region 4-A whether in Batangas, Laguna, or even his native Cavite.
Not a beautifully preserved environment such as Masungi, please!
President Marcos Jr. must revoke a proclamation signed by his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in order to save Masungi for generations yet to come.
That would be key for the Land Registration Authority, which like the Bureau of Corrections is under the supervision of the DOJ, to revoke the OCT it issued last year.
Several Facebook and Instagram posts taken from the poolside area of Sofitel show the bay overtaken by gray sand, the result of reclamation granted willy-nilly by the Philippine Reclamation Authority and local government units with jurisdiction over their municipal waters.
It is a clear uglification of Manila Bay.
Through it all, the DENR, then under a retired general, now under a wealthy landowner steeped in the hallowed halls of academia, has been eerily silent.
Manila, or Metro Manila, is one of the most densely populated urban centers in the world. Uncontrolled migration into the metropolis has been going on since after the Second World War.
Open spaces and green patches have been taken over by informal settlers from west to east, north to south.
Now developers are rushing reclamation using sand from Zambales and other parts to fill up the sea in some 18 approved projects from Navotas in the north to Cavite in the southwest.
Some of these have been awarded to developers willy-nilly, that their metes and bounds overlap.
Once construction starts in the reclaimed areas, more workers will migrate to the metropolis, and will never return to the countryside, depleting our farms of manpower, and congesting NCR further, well beyond carrying capacity.
And then, construction work finished, they will re-populate our fetid slums.
And for what? For wealthy foreigners to buy condominium units facing our fabled sunset at the expense of the inner cities and the environment, while adding to the billions already owned by its developers?
What history once referred to as the Pearl of the Orient will forever be marred and defaced, all because there is no foresight, no urban planning, no pride of place, only monumental greed.
What a country!