QUEZON CITY – As the country observes Philippine Environment Month, stakeholders of the Annual Million Trees Challenge (AMTC) stressed their commitment to plant one million trees this year to meet AMTC’s five-million trees target in five years.
Four years after its maiden launch by MWSS Chairman and Acting Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco in February 2017, AMTC is on the right track. Over four million trees have been planted in the identified denuded areas of the watersheds. About 9,509.375 hectares of watersheds involving Angat, Ipo, Kaliwa, La Mesa, Laguna Lake, Umiray, and Upper Marikina including Manila Bay have been reforested based on the audit report by DENR. “One of the remarkable accomplishments of AMTC is increasing the forest cover of Ipo Watershed from 43 percent in 2017 to 81 percent in 2020,” Velasco said adding that “sustainable nurturing of sapling trees planted take three years to maintain and sustain.”
For this year, the following AMTC partner stakeholders have pledged to plant more than one million trees namely: MWSS (140,000); MWSS-RO (23,000); Manila Water (70,000); Maynilad (20,000); Bulacan Bulk Water (20,000); DENR 3 (43,000); DENR 4A-PENRO Rizal (350,000); LLDA (100,000); Camp Nakar LGU (50,000); ALKFI-BL (40,000); WWF Philippines (60,000); Boy Scout of the Philippines (50,000); Bambuhay- Anak ni Inang Daigdig (60,000); JCI Senate Philippines (2,000); and, Rotary International District 3780 (5,000).
The AMTC is a five-year watershed rehabilitation program of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to restore the health of seven critical watersheds that are crucial in supplying water to Metro Manila and neighboring provinces. It also supports the National Greening Program of the government under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
In its 2020 report, the AMTC stated that a total of 4,021,626 seedlings were planted from 2017-2020 in the Ipo-Angat Dams area (2,265,483), La Mesa (777,505), Laguna de Bay (222,096), Kaliwa-Umiray (60,473), Upper Marikina watershed (552,165), and Manila Bay (143,904).
For three consecutive years since its launch in February 2017, AMTC targets were surpassed, according to the report.
In 2017, the number of seedlings planted totaled 1,337,800. This was followed by 1,027,467 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 in 2020. Nevertheless, the cumulative number surpassed the four million target in four years.
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.
To ensure the continuity of the AMTC and expand its coverage throughout the country, stakeholders have organized the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MTFI), now the official NGO partner organization of MWSS and DENR. MTFI will actively help in the implementation of AMTC collaborating with individuals, groups, government and other private organizations here and overseas to address watershed management concerns.
Among the initial institutional partners of MTFI include San Miguel Corporation President and CEO Ramon S. Ang, Manila Water President and CEO Enrique K. Razon, Maynilad President Ramoncito S. Fernandez and Prime Infra.
On 25 May 2021, MTFI has forged a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the JCI Senate Philippines (JCISP) and the Philippine Jaycee Senate Foundation (PJSF) in support of AMTC’s watershed rehabilitation and enhancement initiatives. The MOU was signed by MFTI President and Executive Director Melandrew T. Velasco, JCISP President Gregorio A. Lipa, and PJSF Chairman Nelson S. Tan with MWSS Chairman and Admistrator Velasco, Maynilad AVP for Government Relations and MTFI Director Annette de Ocampo and JCI Sen. Lian Seelin of Greenlink serving as witnesses.
Among the provisions of the five-year MOU stipulates that JCISP and PJSF shall plant at least 2,000 appropriate indigenous tree species annually in areas that will be determined by DENR, MWSS and MTFI. Care and maintenance of the planted seedlings/saplings will be the responsibility of the JCISP and PJSF.
The JCISP and PJSF are involved in a 24/7 borderless, pro-environment initiatives and programs to help mitigate global warming and the effects of climate change through t heir flagship project “Greenlink” chaired by JCI Sen. Lia Seelin.
MFTI will soon launch its website to increase awareness of the need for environment protection through reforestation. The website will enable stakeholders to choose among several MFTI programs to support thereby contribute to the noble task of protecting and developing the environment.
Another on-going project of MFTI and AMTC is a five-hectare nursery inside the La Mesa Watershed owned by MWSS. With an MTFI nursery under its administration and supervision, optimum growing conditions are provided to germinated seeds of tree species identified by MFTI and AMTC to be transplanted in denuded areas.