Four years after the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System launched the Annual Million Trees Challenge, over four million saplings have been planted in seven critical watersheds that supply water to Metro Manila and its environs.
Launched by then MWSS Administrator now Chairman of the Board Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco (Ret), the AMTC aims to restore the health of eight watersheds supplying water to Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
These watersheds are Angat, Ipo,Kaliwa, La Mesa, Laguna Lake, Umiray, Upper Marikina, and General Nakar in Quezon. Also included in the list is Manila Bay which is currently undergoing rehabilitation.
MWSS saw the need to reforest these watersheds that have been denuded because of illegal activities such as timber poaching, kaingin, and land conversion. Wanton destruction of forest areas has adversely affected water quality in the watersheds.
For three consecutive years after its launch in February 2017, AMTC targets were surpassed. In 2017, the number of saplings planted totaled 1,337,800. This was followed by 1,027,000 in 2018; and 1,022,917 in 2019. However, the number declined in 2020 because of the pandemic that prompted several program partners to postpone tree-planting activities. Only 633,442 trees were planted for the year. Nevertheless, the cumulative number breached the four million mark at 4,021,626 in four years. These saplings were planted in Ipo-Angat (2,265,483), La Mesa (777,505), Laguna de Bay (222,096), Kaliwa Umiray (60,473), Upper Marikina (552,165), and Manila Bay (143,904).
Among the program partners of MWSS in this endeavor are ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc.–Bantay Kalikasan; Bambuhay Social Enterprise; Boy Scouts of the Philippines; DENR National Capital Region; DENR Region 3; DENR Region 4A; Gen. Nakar, Quezon LGU; JCI Senate Philippines; Laguna Lake Development Authority; Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation-San Miguel Corporation; Manila Water Company, Inc.; Maynilad Water Services, Inc.; Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig; MWSS Regulatory Office; National Power Corporation; Phil. Waterworks Association (PWWA); UP Beta Sigma; UP Mountaineers; and, World Wide Fund for Nature – Philippines.
AMTC, which is a five-year watershed rehabilitation program, is in support of the government’s National Greening Program and is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
During the stakeholders annual pledging session last February 22, Velasco said that to pursue the AMTC more aggressively and ensure its activities continue even after its five-year duration, work is now in progress for the establishment of the Million Trees Foundation.
According to Velasco, the Million Trees Foundation envisions a healthy natural environment that will complement government programs to achieve sustainable economic development. It will be actively involved in tree-planting activities, reforestation awareness campaign, and identify modern technology that will help fast-track the achievement of tree-planting goals.
“I would like a sustainable continuity of the noble annual million trees challenge project whose template of success can be replicated in other 142 watersheds all over the Philippines,” said Velasco.”It is the responsibility of everyone to sustainably manage natural resources. Forests are essential in reducing risk of natural disasters. They help mitigate climate change and protect watersheds. Cognizant of this, the UN Sustainable Development Goal 15 aims “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.”