Masungi ‘invaders’ yield 15 guns

Fifteen firearms were seized by elements of the Police Regional Office 4-A from personnel of the Sinagtala Security Agency on Monday following complaints they have encamped at the Masungi conservation area in Tanay, Rizal.

Acting 4-A regional director P/Brig. Gen. Jose Melencio Nartatez confirmed the confiscation of the security guards’ firearms in a social media post of the regional police office.

“PRO 4-A will restore the sense of normalcy in Masungi Georeserve,” Nartatez said after the operation of Regional Civil Security Unit 4-A to secure 12 shotguns and three cal. 38 revolvers from the guards detailed at Sitio Pinagtarangkahan in Cuyumbay, Tanay.

The guards failed to present the licenses for the firearms during the inspection ordered by Nartatez in reaction to the complaint of the Masungi Georeserve Foundation that armed men had encamped at the roadside of the Marikina-Infanta Highway.

No arrests

No arrests were made during the retrieval of the guns.

P/Lt. Col. Eunice de Guzman said they have verified that the firearms were licensed except that the guards at the time failed to show them to the RCSU 4-A inspection unit.

“That’s why the guns were confiscated because they couldn’t show the docs. RCSU issued a violation ticket for the 15 guns,” she told Daily Tribune.

On Monday, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin said he ordered police forces to check on the contested property in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as the contested property is in a “protected area.”

A first police patrol in the area proved negative in sighting the armed guards, but a second inspection unit was able to confirm that Sinagtala’s personnel in the area had been armed as reported by Masungi Georeserve Foundation project director Ann Dumaliang.

No isolated case

Dumaliang on Sunday claimed that armed men had encamped in the area holding a survey document purported to have been issued by the DENR years back. She earlier referred to the members of the group as “invaders.”

“This is not an isolated case or incident. We have uncovered many similar survey instruments being used to sell our protected areas and forest lands,” she said, accusing the group of trying to landgrab.

“We have observed that many of these instruments have been issued in direct contravention of standing presidential proclamations and department orders,” Dumaliang added.

She said that the foundation, which the government has engaged to stop encroachment on protected areas, will remain vigilant to stop the further despoliation of the “abused forest lands.”

MoA review

Meanwhile, DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones clarified that a land survey document, like the one which the group that hired Sinagtala purportedly had, cannot serve as a legal basis to claim lands.

“Our information is that there were several attempts to make use of these surveys in the area. But our regional office has rejected them several times because DENR has not yet recognized them,” Leones said.

While the DENR acknowledged the assistance of the Masungi Georeserve Foundation in protecting the conservation site, Leones said that the memorandum of agreement between them should be reviewed and revised.

“That is not the issue here as the land is protected area and government property, and must be protected with or without our presence,” Dumanliang said in reaction to the statement of the DENR official about the MoA review.

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