Smart Communications and PLDT-Smart Foundation have renewed their commitment to the Marikina Watershed Initiative by expanding their livelihood assistance to the communities working to rehabilitate the protected area.
Smart, the wireless unit of PLDT, and PSF recently provided funding in support of the Tayabasang Umuusad ng Pangkatutubong Asosasyon ior TUPAI community and FOREST Families project, which gives incentives to families for their efforts to protect forest areas, addressing livelihood challenges and environmental degradation within the watershed.
The two organizations are committed to protecting 13 hectares of remaining forest and restoration of five hectares within the high conservation areas of the Marikina watershed for a period of five years.
“PSF has been supporting the Marikina watershed initiative for many years now. Efforts to rehabilitate the watershed goes beyond just planting trees; we also have to address the livelihood concerns of the communities within the conservation areas,” said Esther O. Santos, president of PLDT-Smart Foundation.
“We’ve seen the effects of (typhoon) 'Ondoy,' and we realize how nurturing the environment can help us avoid this situation. By giving livelihood to the communities who live near the remaining forest area of the watershed, we not only help them earn income but also encourage them to help mitigate flooding,” said Ramon R. Isberto, PLDT and Smart public affairs head.
“The livelihood program has greatly helped us. It has also made a way for us to introduce our native fruits. Some of us have even been able to send our children to school, unlike before where they just stayed on the mountains,” Joelito V. Doroteo, head of the TUPAI association, said.
The FOREST Families (Facilitating and Organizing Rehabilitation and Ecosystem Stability through Family-Based Approaches) is a project under the MWI of the Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI) supported by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), which aims to reforest and rehabilitate the Marikina watershed and at the same time contribute to poverty alleviation.
The Marikina watershed was the source of the water that flooded Metro Manila during Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international name Ketsana) in 2009.
The TUPAI members and families under the Forest Families project are part of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe families residing in Sitio San Ysiro, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City, that have been working with the CCI for the protection and restoration of the watershed.
Since 2009, Smart has been backing efforts to rehabilitate the Marikina watershed by collaborating with PDRF, the government and the private sector.
It has implemented programs to address the livelihood needs of those living within the watershed areas, as well as encouraged its employees to join in activities such as tree-planting and other reforestation efforts.
Apart from helping to mitigate environmental and livelihood concerns, Smart has also been at the forefront of disaster preparedness in the Philippines, providing communications and relief aid in times of calamities as well as initiating programs to instill the culture of resilience within communities.