Shawne Marion Manalo

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio is urging President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to protect the Masungi Georeserve, a critically important conservation area in the Southern Sierra Madre in Baras, Rizal facing threats.

Photos Courtesy of Getty Images/Masungi Georeserve/Facebook.

DiCaprio, along with other celebrities and advocates like Greta Thunberg, has spoken out in support of Masungi Georeserve. He emphasized the potential setback this decision poses for conservation efforts and urged Marcos to intervene.

“This cancellation would set back the success of an internationally acclaimed conservation effort and leave the area vulnerable again to mining, logging, and illegal developments,” DiCaprio said in his Instagram post on July 4.

The controversy stems from a recent Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) decision voiding its 2017 agreement with the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Incorporated under Republic Act 11038 or National Integrated Protected Areas System.

The DENR argues the agreement, granting the foundation management rights in perpetuity, violates the Philippine Constitution’s limit of 25 years for such agreements.

Both parties agreed to aid in restoring more than 2,700 hectares of vulnerable land.

Established in 1996, Masungi Georeserve is a 450-hectare limestone reserve located just 35 kilometers from Manila. Once threatened by resource exploitation, the area has become a model for successful conservation efforts. 

The Masungi Foundation’s work has garnered international acclaim, including awards from the 2024 World Economic Forum and the UN Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign.

“Join local rangers in calling on President [Marcos] to intervene and continue to protect Masungi. Conservation successes like Masungi serve as a reminder that the Philippines can become a leader in sustainability, eco-tourism, biodiversity protection, and climate action,” the hollywood actor added.

Public interest at stake

The DENR maintains its position, stating that the agreement violated the public’s ownership rights and that Masungi's commercial activities require a separate permit. 

They environment agency that upholding the law applies to all entities.

“The Filipino people own the area occupied by Masungi Georeserve Foundation and the operation of the resort venues that charge the public for day tours, meetings, and weddings remains non-compliant with Philippines laws,” DENR read in their official statement.