DENR Respond to DiCaprio’s Plea for Marcos to Protect Masungi Georeserve

On Thursday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) released a statement following actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s appeal to Philippine President Bongbong Marcos to intervene and protect the Masungi Georeserve in Rizal province. DiCaprio’s call brought international attention to the ongoing conservation efforts and legal issues surrounding the georeserve.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Masungi Georeserve

“The Filipino people own the area occupied by Masungi Georeserve Foundation, and the operation of the resort venues that charge the public for day tours, meetings, and weddings remains non-compliant with Philippine laws,” stated the DENR. This assertion has sparked a debate over the legal status and operational practices of the georeserve, which has been praised for its conservation efforts.

In response, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. (MGFI) defended their operations via a statement on social media platform X. “The Masungi Georeserve is a non-profit conservation initiative run by the MGFI, a non-stock, non-profit Foundation duly registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Masungi is therefore not a resort, which is built for the primary purpose of entertainment and profit,” the foundation clarified.

The foundation emphasized that its initiative is strictly for conservation and not for profit. They highlighted that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has confirmed that MGFI has no outstanding tax obligations, countering claims of non-compliance. The structures within Masungi are described as light, local, sustainable, and temporary, aimed at enhancing the natural landscape rather than exploiting it for commercial gain.

Furthermore, Masungi is recognized for its stringent and sustainable visitor protocols. “Masungi is also known for implementing some of the strictest and most sustainable visitor protocols and carrying capacities in the country,” the foundation noted. These protocols are in place to ensure the preservation of the delicate ecosystem within the georeserve.

The DENR’s statement also questioned the environmental compliance of the trails within the georeserve. However, the foundation asserted that the trails have a Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC), equivalent to an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for projects with insignificant environmental impact as per the Philippines Environment Impact System.

The debate between the DENR and MGFI highlights the complex challenges of conservation in the Philippines. While the DENR emphasizes legal compliance and public ownership, the MGFI focuses on sustainable conservation practices and international support, evidenced by DiCaprio’s involvement.

As this issue unfolds, the spotlight remains on the balance between environmental conservation and legal frameworks. The Masungi Georeserve serves as a critical example of how conservation efforts can attract global attention and support, and it underscores the importance of clear legal and operational guidelines for sustainable development.

DENR Official Statement

The outcome of this debate will not only impact the Masungi Georeserve but also set a precedent for other conservation initiatives in the country. It remains to be seen how President Marcos will respond to these calls for intervention and what measures will be taken to ensure the protection and sustainable management of the Masungi Georeserve.

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