Fossil gastropods discovered in Masungi, first in PHL
Fossil gastropods discovered in Masungi, first in PHL
Fossil gastropods discovered in Masungi, first in PHL
by Ada Pelonia29 September 2023
Photo courtesy of Masungi Georeserve/Facebook

Gastropod fossils discovered in Masungi Georeserve’s limestones could be the “first and oldest” of its kind in the country, according to the University of the Philippines - National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS).

In a press release posted on Friday, Sept. 29, the geologists and paleontologists of UP-NIGS said gastropods belong to a class of mollusks that share a common ancestor with snails, slugs, and limpets.

The discovered gastropods in Masungi’s limestones, however, stood out as “one of the rare animal groups” that could thrive across primary habitats of species: the ocean, freshwater, and land environments.

“The presence of these fossilized gastropods indicates how the Masungi landscape was submerged underwater about 60 million years ago,” the statement read.

Need for protection

The researchers consider Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal as a “living laboratory” for studying and protecting karst terrains and thus needs to be protected.

“We envision Masungi Georeserve as a place where educators, students, and local government can interact and collaborate in the study of karst features and processes and development of best practices in the management and conservation of karst landforms,” the UP-NIGS researchers said.

The statement underscored that the discovery of the gastropods put primacy on protecting limestone formations between the Upper Marikina Watershed and Kaliwa Watershed—certain areas at the forefront of encroachments, illegal structures, and quarrying.

“Meanwhile, a 2,700-hectare forest restoration project - the Masungi Geopark Project (MGP) - is being threatened with possible cancellation in favor of incompatible land uses,” it further read.

In an earlier statement, Masungi Georeserve Foundation Incorporated (MGFI), along with seventy signatories, urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to protect the MGP as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recommended canceling the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that created MGP due to alleged unconstitutionality of the “perpetual land trust” provision under the MOA.

MGFI said the provision was meant to “prevent the land from being converted, quarried, and exploited in the future.”

Former threats

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) planned to build its new headquarters at the Masungi Georeserve.

BuCor’s plan was opposed by Sen. Nancy Binay, who claimed it was impossible for BuCor to develop its facilities in Masungi, citing ravines and mountain ridges in the area as not an ideal place to erect a headquarters.

In March, BuCor deferred its proposal after receiving reports from environment groups regarding the impacts of the agency’s plans on the ecosystem.

“Knowing the potential environmental impacts of the plan, we are hopeful that the project will be scrapped altogether,” MGFI said in response to the postponement of BuCor’s plans.

The Masungi Georeserve Foundation is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to conserving the Masungi karst ecosystem.

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