The Masungi shooting: Our environment is in danger, and so are its defenders

  • Last week, two of Masungi Georeserve’s rangers were shot by unidentified assailants. It’s terrifying, but not surprising

Two Masungi Georeserve forest rangers were shot by unidentified assailants last July 24. The incident occured in the conservation area’s reforestation site in Sitio San Roque, Baras—which is a separate location from the Masungi Georeserve area and trail.

The attacks came after the rangers were being threatened for reporting slash-and-burn, illegal tree cutting, and illegal private resort construction in the area. The rangers are in a hospital recovering from their injuries, Inquirer reported on Tuesday, July 27.

This is not the first time the conservation area has been subject to violence, intimidation, and dangerous illegal activity.

In February 2020, a quarry company illegally fenced off 500 hectares of degraded land in Masungi Georeserve. In December 2020, reports of illegal squatting, intimidation by “powerful” individuals, and armed guards have been a hindrance to Masungi’s reforestation efforts. 

While these acts of violence are horrendous, they are no longer surprising. Attacks against environmental conservation advocates have become par for the course. In 2019, the country overtook Brazil in becoming the most dangerous country in the world for environmental defenders. 

“The Philippines is among the countries most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Yet our case studies show a range of business projects pushing ahead with brazen disregard for the planet. Mystifyingly, as vicious typhoons and devastating flooding cause havoc to Filipino lives and the economy, President Duterte has allowed his commitments to protect the environment to slip off the agenda,” said Ben Leather, a senior campaigner for global watchdog Global Witness in a 2019 press conference

The pandemic has reminded us that caring for the environment is of utmost importance. The destruction of forests means that wildlife loses their natural habitat—which makes the diseases they carry more transmissible to humans. Ergo, more potential pandemics. 

Extreme weather conditions globally have also been linked to climate change—and things will get worse if nothing is done about it. 

Planting a tree is logically one of the easiest ways to combat climate change, but the increased danger surrounding our environmental defenders is making it more difficult to help our environment. 

While the burden of environmental change cannot be handed to the individual, we must collectively seek accountability from the government to institute the protection of forests, reforestation sites, and those who work to conserve it. The clock is ticking and every second matters.

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