OFFICIALS from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) visited the Masungi Georeserve in Tanay, Rizal on Friday, September 23, 2022, amid the ongoing row there.Residents earlier raised concern after several armed men camped out of the area.The armed men, however, were no longer there when the officials, led by DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr., arrived.Abalos said they already sent a letter to the Sinagtala Security Agency to which the armed men were affiliated to, to explain their side on the issue.“We are waiting for guidance on the DENR regarding this issue. We can’t just act as we could be charged by the courts. I am also warning the security agency that they can’t just enter any place as they need to get a permit from the chief of the police,” he said.“Andito ang kapulisyahan to make sure there is peace and order. Andito ngayon ang DENR para magbigay sa amin ng direksyon and of course, nandito ang conservation group para ibigay atensyon nito at nandiyan kayong media na dapat walang ibang sumakop nito. Magtulungan tayo rito,” he added.But PNP Chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. vowed to maintain police presence at the Masungi 24/7 to ensure the peace and order in the area.He said they are already investigating the possible violations committed by the security personnel of Sinagtala agency.Earlier, PNP spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo said the firearms recovered from the security personnel were registered but they were not able to immediately present their licenses when cops asked them to.There were also complaints of harassment and assault on one of Masungi’s caretakers.“What we are advocating for is to avoid any tension or violence from arising,” Azurin said.“We wanted more para sa ganun ay maimbestigahan at matigil na ito ‘yung involvement ng ating mga kapulisan o kasundaluhan man. We will investigate but we need the cooperation of the complainant para magprosper itong kaso na ito at wala tayong pakialam kung madidismiss o kung ano man ang mangyayari sa kanila. We need to place things in the proper order,” he added.Despite being declared a protected area under Proclamation 296 in 2011, several alleged illegal settlements were put up at the Masungi Georeserve, including houses and resorts.Reports said there are individuals and groups interested in the area due to its mining potential.Located around 47 kilometers east of Metro Manila, the Masungi Georeserve is a conservation area and is known for its rustic rock garden that is part of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL) in Rizal province.The UMRBPL, which covers 26,126 hectares in Rizal province, plays an important role in regulating the flow of water toward the highly urbanized National Capital Region. (SunStar Philippines)