MANILA – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is closely scrutinizing the details of a 2017 memorandum of agreement (MOA) it signed with the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. (MGFI) to ensure its consistency with the country’s laws on protected areas.

DENR-Region 4A Executive Director Nilo Tamoria, in a statement on Sunday, said the move was in line with the order of former Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to reevaluate the MOA and ascertain its consistency with the provisions of Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems (E-NIPAS), which adopts strong amendatory measures to the 24-year old NIPAS law.

"We are now evaluating the consistency of the provisions in the MOA with the E-NIPAS law," Tamoria said in a recent press conference with DENR OIC Secretary Jim O. Sampulna.

The MOA covers the operation of an ecotourism park in Baras, Rizal, popularly known as "Masungi Georeserve," which sits inside the 26,124-hectare Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL) -- one of the 94 protected areas declared under the E-NIPAS law.

Tamoria said the UMRBPL Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), which he chairs, is holding special meetings to make a review of the MOA and "make recommendations on the way forward."

The MOA covers an area of 300 hectares which MGFI started operating in 2015 as an ecotourism park for public use.

In 2017, MGFI signed the MOA with former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez for conservation efforts within the UPMRBPL covering 2,700 hectares.

The area covered under the 2017 MOA includes a portion of land which is subject of an ancestral domain claim. It is an offshoot of an earlier joint venture agreement entered into by former DENR Secretary Victor Ramos and Blue Star Development Corporation (BSDC) in 1997 for a housing project for government workers.

This was followed by a supplemental MOA in 2001 between BSDC and then DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez.

The DENR took out its share from the joint venture agreement with BSDC in 2008. (PR)