It is with a mixture of amusement and alarm that the local officials of Tanay, Rizal reacted to the recent allegations made by the people behind the Masungi Georeserve in its Facebook post dated March 9, 2016.

The Administrator/s of the Masungi Georeserve Facebook page alleged that Mayor Rafael Tanjuatco and Tanay PNP COP Bartolome Marigondon are in connivance with what the former alleged as land grabbers.

The former claimed that Mayor Tanjuatco, through the local PNP, is aiding alleged land grabbers by ‘illegally taking down’ a portion of the perimeter fencing that the Masungi Georeserve management has erected along a property it has claimed as its own without any legal basis.

They added that the local police is allowing their perceived criminals to take away ‘evidence’ of ‘illegal occupation and environmental destruction’.

The former then went on to ask Mayor Tanjuatco and other officials to immediately act on the matter and set aside ‘greed and personal interests’.

In the guise of protecting the environment, the Masungi Georeserve people called Mayor Tanjuatco and PNP Chief Marigondon names, even tagged the Facebook accounts of Greenpeace Philippines and the UNESCO-Philippines National Commission, presumably to solicit public sympathy and, by extension, public contempt against the local government and local police.

But, as with any claims, more so of such grave nature, one shouldn’t be content knowing just one side of the story but rather demand that the other side be heard.

On this premise does the Municipal Government of Tanay, Rizal wishes to set the records straight and expose the wanton lies that the accusers have thrown against it.

On the ‘illegal’ taking down of perimeter fencing

Quoting from Masungi Georeserve’s Facebook post:

At this very moment the Tanay Police are illegally taking down our fences in a separate section of the conservation area next to the Masungi Georeserve to assist land grabbers illegally occupying the area since March 6, Sunday. No permits or warrants are being shown. Activity is still on-going in the location.”

The Municipal Government of Tanay, Rizal would like to reiterate its stand that if there is one party to this whole issue committing illegal acts, it is the people behind the Masungi Georeserve, which poses as the business arm of the Blue Star Development and Construction (BSDC), and not the local government of Tanay.

Accordingly, may we remind BSDC of the letter it received from DPWH Rizal II District Engineering Office District Engineer Adilbert Rosete dated February 22, 2016 informing the former that the perimeter fencing that BSDC erected along Marikina-Infanta Road at So. Pinagtarangkahan, Brgy. Cuyambay was overly close to the national road, with the road right of way of 60 meters.

Engr. Rosete added that BSDC’s perimeter fencing ‘poses dangers to motorist, pedestrians and other road users’ who are traversing the said road section. In the same letter, BSDC was ordered to voluntarily remove the said perimeter fencing in relation to the provisions of DPWH Department Order No. 73, Series of 2014, “Prohibited Uses Within the Right-of-Way of National Road”.

Why was BSDC so adamant to voluntarily take down a clear safety risk even after two notices of obstruction and prohibited uses (January 29, 2016 and February 11, 2016) sent to it by DPWH Rizal II?

Why did they defy a valid request from a national government agency despite the imminent dangers the perimeter fencing poses to everyone passing by the identified section of the Marikina-Infanta Highway?

The local police only did its job, so why make it appear that the local PNP is the bad guy?

We would be very much willing to furnish BSDC with a copy of the February 22, 2016 letter from DPWH Rizal II so it could hopefully develop an enlightened view about its perimeter fencing.

A gentle reminder

In as much as the local government of Tanay would like to continuously engage BSDC in its quest to besmirch the LGU’s reputation, we are constrained to once and for all issue a final statement on the matter.

We would like to ask these questions, which, if answered convincingly by Blue Star Development Corporation, would somehow convince us that they are truly law-abiding citizens of this country:

First:

Why did BSDC undergo developments and construct structures within the Masungi Karst Protected Area without first securing building permit/clearance from the Municipal Engineering Office? The hard and soft developments that BSDC made without prior consultation with the Municipal Engineer inadvertently put at risk the safety of tourists entering Masungi.

Second:

Why did BSDC erect perimeter fencing beyond the expiration of the fencing permit issued to it in 2011? Are the people behind BSDC unaware that a fencing permit has an expiry date and not perpetual in nature? And because they continued to install perimeter fencing without a valid fencing permit, isn’t such action illegal?

Third:

Why was (and still is) BSDC charging P1,000.00 to every guest, clearly in violation of the P500.00 ceiling allowed by the Masungi Rock Management Council (MRMC) under MRMC Resolution 2014-02 to be collected from paying tourists?

Fourth:

Why does BSDC continue to disregard the jurisdiction of Tanay and the MRMC over the Masungi Georeserve, a locally-declared protected area?

BSDC’s move to secure business permit from neighboring Baras and its statement that “Tanay has lost jurisdiction” over the area are totally without basis as the land title of the lot identifies Tanay as its location. In fact, for 15 years, BSDC has been securing its permit from the Municipality of Tanay.

Fifth:

How hard is it really for BSDC management to comply with the Sangguniang Bayan request for it to organize, train, and provide standby Medical Emergency Team for the safety of the tourists?

In its Resolution No. 16, s. 2016, the Sangguniang Bayan of Tanay ordered the temporary suspension of Masungi Georeserve operations pending the compliance of BSDC to its request for a standby Medical Emergency Team and submission of necessary permits from the BPLO and MEO.

Are these conditions impossible to satisfy or does BSDC management don’t have the time to follow legal procedures?

In closing, the Municipal Government of Tanay, Rizal reiterates its unwavering commitment to upholding rule of law, contrary to the unsubstantiated claims made by BSDC Management through its Masungi Georeserve Facebook account.

We do not want to gain public sympathy with grandiose words about environmental conservation and protection – we prove it through concrete, verifiable actions.

We appeal to the general public to be vigilant, to ask probing questions, and to demand concrete evidences and sound arguments on this matter from the people claiming to be champions of the environment.

Moreover, we request the public to withhold judgment pending a clearer and deeper understanding of the issues being raised by BSDC.

We are very much willing to address the public’s questions on the Masungi Karst Protected Area in our office, and we invite the BSDC management to take their grievances to a court of law, so that this controversy can be settled in the proper forum and in a civilized manner.

Mabuhay ang bawat Tanayan na tunay na nagmamahal sa sinilangang bayan!