From Leo to Greta: Celebrities voicing their support for Masungi Georeserve explained

The Hollywood star issued a rallying cry to his millions of supporters on a now-viral Instagram post, asking them to call on the country’s President to intervene in the nature reserve’s woes and continue protecting it.

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio had his name splashed on the headlines of most local media outlets yesterday, July 4. No, it’s not because he has a new film in the works. And no, it’s definitely not because he has finally decided to date someone over 25 years old.

It was for a reason far more noble and part of the Oscar-winning actor’s decades-long advocacy.

Leonardo di Caprio is known for his environmental advocacies as much as he is for his remarkable filmography. Photo: Getty Images

DiCaprio voiced his support for Masungi Georeserve, even urging the country’s President to intervene and help protect the nature reserve just outside Metro Manila’s doorstep. More than his undeniable star power, what caught many people’s attention, mine included, is seeing their names together in a single sentence. It seemed unlikely as the Titanic star dating a 26-year-old—but here we are.

Despite the initial feeling of dissonance upon seeing “DiCaprio” and “Marcos” in the same sentence, I’m glad this news opened the conversation and shone the spotlight on a truly pressing environmental concern.

Masungi Georeserve in peril

The environment advocate and philanthropist took to social media to dish out some educational information about Masungi. He informed his 61.7 million Instagram followers that the protected area in Rizal province is now in danger and most likely to face threats of mining and logging, among others, as reported on

“Masungi is a lush montane rainforest landscape outside of Manila, the bustling capital of the Philippines. In the late 1990s, much of Masungi was illegally deforested. Local communities fostered the development of the @masungigeoreserve, spurring efforts to restore this precious ecosystem. From these conservation initiatives, trees were able to grow taller, wildlife numbers slowly increased, and more locals became involved in protecting this ecosystem,” the 49-year-old actor and film producer wrote, accompanying his post with pictures and a video of the Masungi Georeserve. 

He added: “Now this success is in jeopardy, as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources threatens to cancel the agreement that protects this area from prolific land-grabbing activities. 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’s call for Marcos to intervene sought to ensure that the gains made in reforestation are not lost to illegal activities such as logging and mining​. Photo above from Flip Science; those below from Istock

To further make his point heard, DiCaprio mentioned Marcos in his post, issuing a call to action to his legions of fans: “Join local rangers in calling on President @bongbongmarcos 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.”

Leo the earth hero 

DiCaprio has always been an outspoken advocate for environmental causes. In 1998, when he was only 24, he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to support organizations and initiatives dedicated to securing a sustainable future for our planet. 

Since then, he has forged enduring relationships with some of the world’s greatest leaders and thinkers, staying engaged and active on the most pressing issues of the times such as climate change, access to clean water, protecting biodiversity, oceans conservation, and disaster relief, as per his profile page on the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) website. 

In 1998 when he was only 24, he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Photo from

In addition to WWF, DiCaprio sits on the board of several organizations dedicated to these issues including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Global Green USA, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). 

Through his foundation, he has also produced media projects that communicate the urgency of the climate and environmental issues to the public, including two short web films Water Planet and Global Warning, which have been viewed by people around the world. In 2007, he released his first feature length documentary, The 11th Hour, which features over 50 of the world’s leading experts on environmental issues and the solutions that can save our planet and humanity.

When he won his first-ever Oscar for lead actor in 2016 for The Revenant, he used his acceptance speech to warn about the effects of global warming. Photo: AP

When he finally won an Oscar for lead actor in 2016 for “The Revenant,” he used his acceptance speech to warn about the effects of global warming. “Climate change is real and it’s happening right now,” he said. “It’s the most urgent threat affecting our species.” He added: “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take this night for granted.”

“No one is above the law”

But it looks like DiCaprio’s impassioned rallying call (and charm!) isn’t enough to move the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In response, a seemingly unfazed DENR released a statement saying they appreciate the celebrities’ reactions but “no one is above the law.”

“We appreciate the statements of concern for the Philippine environment from international celebrities who are distinguished in their respective fields. However, no one is exempt from the law,” they wrote.

Photo from the DENR’s Facebook page

“The Filipino people own the area occupied by Masungi Georeserve Foundation, and the operation of the resort venue that [charges] the public for day tours, meetings, and weddings remains non-compliant with Philippines laws,” it added. 

The DENR also mentioned that the owners of Masungi Georeserve “are the same signatories” to the Joint Venture Agreements and Supplemental Agreement “that have been investigated by DENR and is currently subject [to] investigation in aid of legislation by both houses of Congress.”

In April, the DENR tagged Masungi Georeserve as a “resort,” citing its collection of entrance fees, availability of accommodations, and hosting of events—a claim that was challenged by the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. (MGFI). These are among the DENR’s reasons for the potential revocation of their 2017 MOA with MGFI, which assigns the reserve as a “perpetual land of trust” under the care of MGFI for conservation and preservation.

MGFI also billed the government over P1 billion for expenses incurred due to the DENR’s alleged failure to clear illegal occupants from the area, as required by their contractual obligations. The department’s Investigation Committee, however, claimed the billing is without legal basis. 

In response, Masungi Georeserve posted its reaction on X (formerly Twitter), emphasizing that “Masungi is not a resort,” adding that it is known for “implementing some of the strictest and most sustainable visitor protocols and carrying capacities in the country.” You can view Masungi Georeserve’s full statement on DENR’s allegations on its X bio and website

Apart from the possibility of having its contract with the government canceled, it also constantly faces threats of commercial encroachment.

A star-spangled roster of advocates

Long before DiCaprio thrust Masungi’s plight into the limelight, there were already celebrities both local and international who have voiced their support for Masungi’s protection. 

Perhaps the biggest name aside from Leo is Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who expressed her support for MGFI in its effort to remain as the caretaker of the 2,700-hectare reserve. As soon as news broke out in April of the possible revocation of the Masungi-DENR MOA, Thunberg released a video on Facebook saying that she stands with the embattled georeserve.

As soon as news broke out of the possible revocation of the Masungi-DENR MOA in April, Thunberg released a video on Facebook saying that she stands with the embattled georeserve. Photo from

“World leaders should save good biodiversity areas and hold large corporations accountable rather than silencing environmental defenders,” said the 21-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee in the video message. 

Local personalities who continue to voice their support for the embattled georeserve include actress Nadine Lustre, P-pop boy group member Justin De Dios of SB19, Senator Nancy Binay, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, environment lawyer Gerthie Mayo-Anda, and advocates Rissa Mananquil Trillo, Celine Murillo, and Mitzi Jonelle Tan.

With DiCaprio’s post on Instagram, more celebrities echoed the call to protect Masungi. John Arcilla, Karen Davila, and Arci Muñoz are among those who have also expressed their support for safeguarding the protected area.

Actress Nadine Lustre is one of the most vocal supporters of Masungi Georeserve. Photos from Masungi

“Thank you so much for this awareness and call [@leonardodicaprio]. Such a noble endeavor; it’s a pity that we Filipinos ourselves are not even aware of this. Thank you. I will definitely share this,” wrote Arcilla in the comment section of the post.

“Thank you. The people depending on our environment are our most vulnerable sectors who haven’t been given enough of a voice to protect the natural resources that they love and rely on,” Muñoz said.

Davila, meanwhile, wrote: “Thank you [@leonardodicaprio] and Bravo [@masungigeoreserve] for keeping on! Amazing to see the world stand with the brave work you do!”

Justin de Dios of renowned P-pop group SB19 celebrated his 24th birthday in 2022 by planting trees with his fans and donating to the efforts of the MGFI.

Actress Glaiza de Castro and Miss Universe Philippines first runner-up Stacey Gabriel recently participated in a tree-nurturing activity at the Masungi Georeserve, describing it as a “project that aims to preserve and protect rainforests in Rizal.”

Amid the hullabaloo, one thing remains irrefutable: MGFI’s reforestation of the reserve has been praised by both local and international environment groups—and that alone speaks volumes. It has also actively called out illegal occupants and loggers to preserve the land despite its rangers being repeatedly attacked by hired agents of the encroachers.

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