A private sector group has created the Million Trees Foundation to perpetuate and sustain the annual million trees challenge (AMTC), a five-year project seeking the rehabilitation of seven critical watersheds.
With the MTF formed and incorporated with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the continuity of the project is now assured, according to MWSS Chairman of the Board Reynaldo V. Velasco.
AMTC is an original creation of the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System—Corporate Office under Velasco, then the MWSS Administrator in February 2017.
The MWSS chairman hailed the formal establishment of the foundation as a noble effort to ensure the continuity and sustainability of the AMTC,
The administration’s project will benefit seven critical watersheds namely: Angat, Ipo, Kaliwa, La Mesa, Laguna Lake, Umiray, and Upper Marikina including Manila Bay through the planting of one million trees yearly. The AMTC was in response to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s socio-economic development agenda, the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022. The AMTC program corresponds with the PDP focus areas on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem system resilience through partnerships in rehabilitating critical watersheds and convergence/complementation of resources.
Since its launch in 2017 until end of December 2020, a total of 4,021,626 seedlings were planted in the watersheds through the AMTC. Through the AMTC a total of 9,509.375 hectares from 2017 to 2020 were reforested. At the Ipo-Angat watershed, reforested area was 5,035.19 hectares; La Mesa, 1,723.39; Laguna de Bay, 347.83; Kaliwa–Umiray, 150.84; Upper Marikina, 1,928.99; and Manila Bay, 323.135.
Serving as Million Trees Foundation, Inc. President and Executive Director is veteran author and publisher Melandrew T. Velasco, an advocate for tree-planting who conceptualized the noble AMTC project for MWSS and was subsequently duly carried out by the MWSS.
He served as publisher and editor of the Water & Environment Journal with the Philippine Water Works Association (PWWA), the umbrella organization of the country’s water supply industry, for over two decades. He is also an active member of JCI Senate Philippines and the Rotary International District 3780, two partner organizations of the AMTC project.
“We look forward to gain the support of DepEd, DENR, San Miguel Corporation, MVP group of companies, Wawa JV and other corporations to grow more narra trees,” Foundation Executive Director Melandrew Velasco said.
The Million Trees Foundation aims to preserve and restore the ecosystem functions of watersheds nationwide aside from the watershed beneficiaries of AMTC. The River Basin Control Office of DENR has identified 142 critical watersheds in the Philippines. The rehabilitation of the watersheds will be patterned after the La Mesa dam rehabilitation project. Its objectives also include the conduct of tree-planting activities; awareness campaign in support of the government’s reforestation program and CSR environment projects of private corporations; establishment of a data bank on statistics relevant to the foundation’s activities; and introduction of automation and modern-technology in tree-planting.
These objectives are to be pursued in partnership with the private sector, educational institutions people’s organizations, and government agencies to ensure nurturing of saplings and provide livelihood to residents of areas covered by the tree-planting activities.
The Foundation will also network with international foundations and entities focused on watershed management and planting of trees.
Inspired by success stories in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, it will utilize drones for tree-planting specially in Rizal/Wawa watershed to fast-track the achievement of tree-planting targets.
Million Trees Foundation is pushing for the planting of bamboos along river banks; narra (Pterocarpus indicus) and ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) trees in the other areas.
It will also push for the massive planting of bamboos along riverbanks in Marikina and Laguna Lake. Bamboos absorb excess water, help cut soil losses, and minimize soil erosion. Planting bamboos along Marikina riverbanks supports reforestation projects that cover 600 hectares by Fr. Benigno Beltran’s Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig group.
According to Velasco, the Foundation is also pushing for the propagation of ylang-ylang through the tree-planting activities. The ylang-ylang flower is source of essential oil used in soaps,
shampoos, body oils, and perfume. He shared that in the 1800s, the country was a major supplier of essential oil for France and other perfume manufacturing countries. He cited Lingayen Mayor Leopoldo Bataoil as a true advocate of the benefits of the ylang-ylang tree.
The Foundation is not only concerned with tree-planting, reforestation and environmental sustainability. “We want to provide livelihood opportunities to people particular those in the communities through our tree-planting advocacy,” Velasco said.
These livelihood projects include putting up a nursery for saplings to be planted in target areas, engaging local settlers to take care of the nursery and planted areas, developing wood carving home industries, and organizing small/marginalized farmers to be suppliers of ylang-ylang flowers to manufacturers, among others.
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