Two years after its establishment, the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. led by Chairman Emeritus Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco (ret.) and us as MTFI president and Executive Director together with representatives from institutional partners and stakeholders inaugurated on March 16, 2023 the foundation’s phase 2 projects at the La Mesa Watershed in Novaliches, Quezon City.
The occasion also marked the first anniversary of the Million Trees Nursery and Eco-Learning Center in the five-hectare area of the watershed compound leased by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System to MTFI for 15 years.
The inauguration was followed by the opening of Splash Tree, a visual art exhibit that showcased the works of Janddie Castillo, known as “Master of Splash Art” for his unique art style and technique.
MWSS Administrator Cleofas delivered the welcome remarks and reported that out of the 1.7 million trees pledged in 2022 for the Annual Million Trees Challenge, 1.2 million trees have been planted.
This constitutes a portion of the 10 million more trees target by 2030.
MTFI is the official NGO partner of MWSS to ensure the continuity of AMTC and expand its coverage throughout the country.
In my speech, I spoke about the accomplishments of the Foundation for the past two years.
I shared the information that there are now 500 members of MTFI’s Green Army Brigade and the Foundation together with partner stakeholders have planted 20,000 trees inside the La Mesa Watershed area.
Other accomplishments are: the completion of the SMC Multi Center (Eddie’s Green Barn) which was inaugurated last October 23, 2022; construction and completion of new rest rooms, staff house, and green houses.
During the period, MTFI procured Philippine native trees, ornamental plants, fruit-bearing trees and vegetables.
It also undertook improvement works on the MTFI grounds and procured garden tools, wooden swing, mango table and bahay kubo and new landscaping for beautification of the area.
Representatives from institutional partners Manila Water and Manila Water Foundation, Maynilad, San Miguel Corporation, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources congratulated and reaffirmed the commitment of their respective organizations to support the advocacy of MTFI.
Manila Water President J.V. Emmanuel de Dios, Manila Water Foundation Reginald Andal and MWCI Regulatory Group Head Jo Kristine Celera formally turned over its P1-million institutional support to MTFI Chairman Rey Velasco and MTFI President Mel Velasco joined in by MWSS Chairman Vega and MWSS Administrator Cleofas.
Likewise, Maynilad President Ramoncito S. Fernandez and MWSI Corporate Communication Head Annete de Ocampo also turned P1-million institutional support. Fernandez rallied MTFI partner stakeholders to give special focus on the massive degradation of Laguna Lake which is also a vital source of water to both Maynilad and Manila Water.
DENR NCR Regional Executive Director Jacqueline A. Caancan, CESO III represented by DENR-NCR Assistant Regional Director Engr. Ignacio R. Almira Jr. commended MWSS for its efforts to protect and conserve the La Mesa Watershed through the AMTC.
“The DENR National Capital Region is pleased and thankful to have you as partner in the enrichment of one of the remaining green spaces of Metro Manila,” Almira said.
According to Almira, water security is one of the priorities of DENR. AMTC aims to rehabilitate critical watersheds that are essential in the water supply.
“For the past four years we have seen improvements in our watersheds, thanks to the Annual Million Tree Challenge, the National Greening Project, and other similar endeavors of different stakeholders,” he noted.
“DENR National Capital Region reaffirms its commitment to continue providing planting materials to the Annual Million Tree Project and assist in the validation of the planted seedlings and other needed interventions.”
Meanwhile, Bulacan Bulk Water Manager Edgar Dona read the speech of SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang for the anniversary celebration. SMC, which has become MTFI’s major annual donor supported the construction of the SMC Multi Purpose Center which is dedicated to former President Fidel V. Ramos.
In his speech, RSA commended MTFI for taking on “the ambitious but arduous task of planting millions of trees in critical watershed areas, including the La Mesa Watershed.”
He underscored the importance of trees.
“The role of trees and forests in our lives is basic but commonly overlooked–or worse, ignored. Apart from providing us valuable resources such as food and building materials, trees also protect us against land erosion and flooding.”
Guest of honor MWSS Board of Trustees Chairman Atty. Elpidio Vega who was introduced by MTFI Chairman Emeritus Velasco.
Tokens of appreciation were handed to all partners of MTFI on the road to 10 million more trees by 2030.
(The author is president and executive director of the Million Trees Foundation Inc. He is also a prolific book writer and publisher.)