This was the message of Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MTFI) Chairman Emeritus Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco (Ret.) during the pledging session attended by stakeholders and partners of the Annual Million Tree Challenge (AMTC).
Velasco, the former Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator and Chairman based his statement on the successful AMTC project launched in 2017 during his stint with the water agency. After five years, AMTC recorded over 5.2 million trees or at least a million trees annually planted in critical watersheds vital to potable water supply in Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan.
Held at the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MFTI) Nursery and Eco learning Center at the La Mesa Watershed last June 29, partners and stakeholders of the Annual Million Trees Challenge committed to plant a total of 1,710,005 trees that will reforest a total of 3,278 hectares of land in different watersheds. Angat watershed will be planted with 494,005 new trees that will reforest 671 hectares; Upper Marikina with 432,000 saplings that will benefit 691 hectares; and Ipo with 264,000 that will involve 660 hectares. The watersheds of La Mesa and Umiray will be the recipients of 220,000 and 25,000 saplings, and that will reforest 550 and 63 hectares, respectively. The remaining pledged saplings will be planted at the watershed of Kaliwa, in Manila Bay and other parts of the country.
The pledging session was organized by MWSS Administrator Leonor “Bobby” Cleofas and Million Trees Foundation Inc. President and Executive Director Melandrew T. Velasco who were joined by top officials of government and private entities involved in the noble project which is on now its sixth year.
MTFI President Mel Velasco presented an overview of MTFI’s “The Road to 10 Million Trees by 2030” covering watersheds of concern and the watershed restoration roadmap that was produced during the Strategic Planning Workshop for the Development of Watershed Restoration Roadmap last February 23, 2022. The roadmap identifies the restoration gaps and challenges, goals and strategies in watershed restoration, among others. He also announced the strategic partnership with Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) that has a vast network of professional organizations all over the Philippines, the Society of Filipino Foresters, Inc. with 14,000 members and the Climate Change Commission for carbon credit.
Among those present who committed their pledges to participate in tree-planting activities toward 10 million trees more in 2030 were: MWSS Corporate Office (80,000); MWSS Regulatory Office (25,000); Manila Water Company, Inc. (118,000); Maynilad Water Services, Inc. (90,000); Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation (10,000); PENRO Rizal (410,000); DENR NCR (50,000); CENRO Guiguinto (54,005); Laguna Lake Development Authority (155,000); National Power Corporation (200,000); Municipality of General Nakar, Quezon, (25,000); AFI-Bantay Kalikasan (32,000); World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (110,000); Sta. Clara International Corporation (50,000); Century Properties Group, Inc. (5,000); Rotary International – Districts 3780/3800/3830 (10,000); JCI Senate Philippines-Greenlink (1,000); San Miguel Corporation (100,000); China Energy Engineering Corporation Ltd. (25,000); Professional Regulation Commission – Board for Foresters (5,000); Society of Filipino Foresters Inc. (100,000); DOHWA Engineering Co. Ltd & Engineering and Development Corporation of the Philippines (DOHWA-EDCOP) (5,000); 5th PNP Mobile Force Command (50,000); China SHECB-BIDR-SXSY(CSBS) Consortium (5,000); and, PrimeWater Infrastucture Corporation (100,000).
DENR OIC Secretary Joselin Marcus E, Fragada was represented by DENR National Capital Region Director Jacqueline A. Caancan, CESO III. In her message, Caancan emphasized that protecting the environment requires a balancing act. “We no longer live in an era where strict protection of the environment should be the topmost priority. Our prevailing paradigm is sustainable development where the three pillars, consisting of economy, environment, and society, must reconcile,” she said.
She commended the MWSS as a formidable partner in conserving and protecting the La Mesa Watershed Reservation and vowed DENR-NCR’s continued support to the Annual Million Tree Challenge by providing planting materials to MWSS and the Million Trees Foundation, assisting in the validation of planted seedlings, and other developmental measures. “In protecting a watershed, the primary consideration is the protection of its forests,” she added.
She underscored the participation of various stake holders as imperative for the DENR to carry out its mandate of protecting the environment.
This was echoed by MFTI Chairman Emeritus Velasco who said that protecting the environment cannot be done by government alone. “There is a need for the public and private sectors to work together.”