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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Nurturing watersheds

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The area at the La Mesa Watershed allocated for use by MTFI has undergone development funded largely by the three MWSS concessionaires

Angat, Ipo, Kaliwa, La Mesa, Laguna Lake, Umiray and Upper Marikina are seven critical watersheds that benefit from the Annual Million Trees Challenge, a project institutionalized by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.

It was the brainchild of then MWSS Administrator retired Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco.

AMTC aimed to rehabilitate through reforestation the seven watersheds essential to the water supply in Metro Manila and nearby provinces under MWSS coverage.

Since its launch in 2017, AMTC has surpassed its target of one million trees planted annually. To ensure its sustainability, the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. was established.

A partnership between MWSS and MTFI was forged where the latter became the non-government partner organization in the implementation of the AMTC.

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About 6.8 million trees have been planted so far and the goal is 10 million more trees planted in identified watersheds by 2030.

Reforestation of watersheds stabilizes catchments, prevents erosion, and improves downstream water quality ensuring sustainability.

Reforestation is also among the solutions to slow down the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The endeavor to rehabilitate the watersheds gained support not only from national government agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Climate Change Commission.

The private sector and different stakeholders also rallied behind the noble cause.

San Miguel Corporation, with subsidiary Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation, Maynilad, Manila Water/Manila Water Foundation and Santa Clara International are among MTFI’s institutional partners.

Coincidentally, as the nation celebrated Climate Change Consciousness Week a few days ago, MTFI forged a Memorandum of Agreement with its new institutional partner, Nestle Philippines, Inc. for the next three years.

Signatories of the MOA were Nestlé Philippines, Inc. Senior Vice President Head of Corporate Affair, Mr. Jose Uy III and MTFI Chairman Emeritus Gen Velasco.

With the MOA signed, Nestle becomes the latest institutional partner of MTFI.

Under the agreement, MTFI shall be engaged by Nestle Philippines, Inc. to facilitate the execution of its Project Kasambuhay Forest, a tree-planting initiative.

MTFI shall provide the saplings; facilitate the preparation of the location of the tree-planting, and to perform other activities in direct connection with the tree-planting initiative.

At the MOA signing and launch of Project Kasambuhay Forest, Velasco emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration among organizations to achieve a common goal.

“Reforestation requires huge investments not only financial, but manpower, and technical know-how as well. While we already have institutional partners, a new partner is always welcome,” Velasco said.

“What the Million Trees Foundation has achieved so far is a testament to the power of partnership. When organizations come together for a common cause, a synergy is created that helps transform lives including those of local communities—in this case, those residing near watersheds.”

The importance of partnerships in protecting the environment was echoed by Engr. Henry Pacis of DENR NCR who represented Regional Executive Director Jacqueline Caancan.

He said caring for the environment is “something that will always transcend all of us. It will go to the next generation maybe a bigger battle for the next generation.

“But with more partnerships coming from the national government agencies from the private sector, from civil society and individually, is so much that we can do.”

The launch of Nestle Philippines, Inc. Project Kasambuhay gained significance with the planting of 5,260 saplings at the La Mesa Watershed by Nestle personnel, volunteers and talents from Sparkle GMA Artist Center.

In his remarks, Uy underscored the need to take care of La Mesa Watershed, the “last standing rainforest of its size in Metro Manila.”

The Sparkle Stars who participated in the tree-growing activity were Nikki Co, Angela Alarcon, Nikki Van, John Clifford, Sandro Muhlach, Seb Pajarillo, Zyren Dela Cruz and Shuvee Etrata, who was grateful for the opportunity given to them to help protect the environment.

“We are really not just the inheritors of the earth but we are its stewards,” she said.

The area at the La Mesa Watershed allocated for use by MTFI has undergone development funded largely by the three MWSS concessionaires.

In place is the Million Trees Nursery and Eco Learning Center. From the initial five hectares allocated by MWSS and DENR, the area has been augmented by 20 hectares more for tree-planting enhancements and to accommodate future projects of MTFI.

(The author is president and executive director of the Million Trees Foundation Inc., a non-profit group advocating tree planting and watershed protection. He is also a book writer and publisher of biographical and coffee table books.)

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