ALFRED GABOT: Life at the Million Trees Foundation eco learning center, La Mesa Watershed
Something good is going on at the La Mesa Watershed in Quezon City. The Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MTFI) in collaboration with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) inaugurated the SMC Multi-Purpose Hall at the MFTI Nursery and Eco-Learning Center inside the watershed compound besides the Quirino highway going to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and north Caloocan City.
Construction of the Multi-Purpose Hall, called Eddie’s Barn as a tribute to the late Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos, was funded by SMC. The multi-purpose hall used to be a greenhouse which was renovated and refurbished to showcase the various green project of SMC and serve as venue for trainings, seminars, and workshops on ecology and environment protection. The air-conditioned center can accommodate 50 persons—bigger than the Eco Learning Center’s Executive Room.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by MTFI officials led by Chairman Emeritus Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco and President & Executive Director Melandrew T. Velasco; MWSS Administrator Engr. Leonor Cleofas; MWSS Board of Trustee Atty. Rogelio Quevedo, Ms. Cristy Ramos, representing the guest of honor former First Lady Amelita M. Ramos; and MGen Edgard Arevalo (Ret.), representing SMC President & CEO Ramon S. Ang (RSA).
Also present were members during the Ramos Cabinet and FVR colleagues including former DENR Secretary Victor Ramos, former DILG & Tourism Secretary Rafael Alunan III, MGen Jose P. Magno, Jr., former PVAO Administrator Ernesto Carolina and Mr. Mel Bergado. Ms. Annette de Ocampo, MTFI trustee, emceed the event program.
In her opening remarks, MWSS Administrator Cleofas said that the water agency is not only concerned with supplying water and sewerage services for the whole MWSS service area. “We also care for the seven critical watersheds of MWSS,” she said, adding if we do not take care of watersheds, we will not have sustainable potable water.” She emphasized that MWSS together with its three concessionaires Manila Water, Maynilad and Luzon Clean Water Development is supportive of the MTFI.
MTFI President & Executive Director Velasco in his short message which preceded an audio-visual presentation tribute to FVR said the occasion was an “act of love, a continuing act of love known as fidelity,” for an idol named Fidel [Valdez Ramos]. “Fidelity to his legacy,” Velasco added. It was an occasion to demonstrate “fidelity to whatever he has taught us” on the environment, among others. Velasco recalled that the MFTI Nursery and Eco Learning Center is dedicated to the former President for which a marker was unveiled during its inauguration on March 18, 2022, during the FVR’s 94th birthday.
He cited the support extended by Sta. Clara International Corporation in the land development of the MTFI Nursery and Eco Learning Center despite the latter not being a concessionaire of MWSS.
Velasco stressed that the Foundation is committed to grow and nurture 10 million trees by 2030 in support of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystems Restoration which runs from 2021 to 2030. He acknowledged former DENR Secretary Victor Ramos, an icon on environment protection, who has always been an inspiration and former First Lady Amelita Ramos for her Piso Para sa Pasig initiative to rehabilitate the Pasig River under the Clean and Green Foundation she founded. Incidentally, SMC is currently undertaking the rehabilitation of the Pasig River at no cost to the government.
RSA in a message read by MGen. Edgard Arevalo, said that aside from being blessed with rich natural resources, the country also has “many active and engaging individuals and organizations who do their part for the environment, and yet only a few can claim to have made such an indelible mark as the former President [Fidel V. Ramos] and the former First Lady [Amelita Ramos] that is why we are celebrating them today.”
“We at San Miguel can only hope to make as lasting an impact on the environment as the Ramoses and the other notable champions have made,” he added.
For the past years, SMC has embarked on more sustainability challenges from discontinuance of its plastic water business, to recycled plastic roads experiment, commitment to cut by 50 percent its use of utility water across the SMC group, and planting of over seven million trees and mangroves nationwide.
Aside from these, SMC has completed the rehabilitation of the Tullahan River and is now undertaking the rehabilitation of the Pasig River, both flood mitigation initiatives. In the same message, RSA said “to have an enduring positive impact on the environment is also why we have support the million trees initiative all these years. The urgency and importance of protecting our watersheds through reforestation cannot be overstated especially now when the basic needs like food and energy are becoming scarcer and harder to access.”
“We hope our humble contribution of this multi-purpose hall–a tribute to both the former President and First Lady, and to all who continue to carry the torch—will inspire and help many others to get involved in protecting, saving, and improving our environment for the benefit of many future generations.”
For her part, Ms. Cristy Ramos, speaking on behalf of her mother, former First Lady Amelita Ramos recalled how their parents instilled on the young Ramoses the discipline to care for the environment from “picking your own trash and putting it in the proper place to consolidating trips to save on energy. She said during the energy crisis in the 70s, FVR would always say “enercon”, which meant energy conservation. Reduce, reuse, recycle also became normal words in their daily vocabulary. She spoke about the initiatives of her parents to protect the environment and advocated for early education of children on the environment.
The Million Trees Foundation is a non-stock, non-profit organization and the partner non-government organization of MWSS in the continued implementation of the Annual Million Tree Challenge. It operates the Million Trees Nursery and Eco Learning Center.
Congratulations to the primemovers of this noble project.
(The writer who is editor in chief of Philippine News Today can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)