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Govt lists 3,000 illegal builds in Region 4A protected areas

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is targeting some 3,000 illegal structures and occupants in Protected Areas (PA) within Region 4A.

DENR Calabarzon Regional Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria told the BusinessMirror that most of these illegal structures were constructed without securing necessary permits from the DENR and should be dismantled to pave the way for massive reforestation in these so-called “areas set aside for conservation.”

Last Wednesday, the DENR led regional officials and representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Department of Public Works and Highways, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Army, National Bureau of Investigation and local government units in issuing “show cause” orders for structures along the Marilaque (Marikina-Rizal-Laguna, Quezon) Highway, demanding an explanation or justification from their owners or occupants for the existence of their facilities within a PA.

A total of 239 show cause orders were issued so far. These are broken down as follows: Rizal, 106; Laguna, 55; and, Quezon, 78.

“Once we saturated the serving of the show-cause orders in the areas within the 80-meters buffer from the centerline of both sides of the highway, we will again sit down with different agencies, assess and target other areas (interior) moving outward the national highway,” Tamoria said.

Residential and medium rise buildings, resorts and even swine farm or poultry farm, he said, are covered by the saturation drive.

“All the structures will be covered. Other bigger structures will be covered eventually when we go outward. Most of those covered last Wednesday were small-scale to medium-sized and big business establishments and residential. This is because we focused on the 80 meters on both sides of the road,” he said, referring to the Marilaque Highway.

The highway traverses all the way from Marikina to Antipolo, Rizal, and several towns in Laguna and Quezon.

According to Tamoria, the Marilaque Highway straddles in three PAs, namely the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL), the Kaliwa River Forest Reserve by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1636.

As for the structures within the Masungi Georeserve, he said some of the illegal structures within the area covered by the controversial memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by former DENR Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez and the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. led by Ben Dumaliang that assigned close to 3,000 hectares to Masungi Georeserve, have already been covered by show cause orders in the past.

As for the Masungi Georeserve itself, which is lacking a Special Use Agreement in Protected Area (Sapa) as mandated by environmental laws, the DENR Central Office has yet to come up with a decision of its ongoing assessment and review of the legality of the MOA.

Tamoria said the DENR’s approach in the case of Masungi Georeserve is a review of the MOA. However, he said, in Filipino, that other structures inside the 2017 MOA were covered with show-cause orders.

The DENR Calabarzon had earlier recommended the cancellation of the MOA and to enforce the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act covering all PAs in the Calabarzon and called on all legal occupants to secure Sapa from the DENR as mandated by Department Order 2007-17 and subsequent amendatory orders.

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