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BuCor eyes new HQ at Masungi Georeserve; Masungi alarmed

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Friday said it is eyeing to build a new headquarters on land in Tanay, Rizal on property that the Masungi Georeserve claims is within its territory.

In a statement, BuCor officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang Jr. said the subject 270 hectares of land is not a relocation site for the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“Pursuant to the five-year development plan of BuCor, the subject property in Tanay, Rizal will be used as a site of the BuCor headquarters, including its residential uses for its personnel and employees,” Catapang said.

The agency issued the remark a day after the Masungi Georserve called for the intervention of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, and Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga after BuCor personnel conducted an “ocular inspection” of the alleged “relocation site of the NBP.”

The Georserve said that the BuCor personnel bore a title for over 270 hectares in the name of the BuCor, while the remaining 30 hectares were under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

According to Catapang, however, BuCor is the registered owner of the property, and it “has all the right to conduct any activity in the area, including the questioned ocular inspection.”

Catapang said Bucor's rights on the property were based on the transfer certificate issued in September 2006 under Presidential Proclamation 1158.

He said 30 hectares were reserved as the field office site of DENR under the same proclamation.

“Existing jurisprudence dictates that until and unless it is nullified by a court of competent jurisdiction in direct proceedings for the cancellation of title, the transfer certificate of title issued under the name of the BuCor remains indefeasible and binding,” Catapang said.

“I would like to reiterate that I wholeheartedly support the noble objective of the Masunji Georserve Foundation and its geo park projects. I am a pro-environmentalist and would not oppose any plan of the foundation that would [be] geared towards the conservation of our ecosystem,” he added.

Nevertheless, Catapang insisted that BuCor would continue with its plan to establish a headquarters unless the title of the property was nullified.

“With these, until and unless the title to the subject property and the name of BuCor has been nullified or cancelled through any of the legal means that are available to them, the BuCor will continue with its plan,” he said.

For its part, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation welcomed Catapang’s professed appreciation for the foundation's conservation efforts.

“It is with this mindset and encouragement that we appeal to him to deem the environment as central to all issues and reconsider BuCor's plans,” the foundation told GMA News Online.

“We also call on President Bongbong Marcos, DENR Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga, and DOJ Secretary Boying Remulla to aid in this matter in the interest of the Philippines’ natural heritage,” it added. — DVM, GMA Integrated News