By MELANDREW T. VELASCO
QUEZON CITY (via PhilAmPress) – Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu has thrown his full support for the Annual Million Tree Challenge (AMTC) initiated by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) aimed at protecting six critical watersheds that impact the water supply in Metro Manila.
Cimatu made the commitment to support the noble AMTC project in an executive conference at the DENR Office attended by the department’s top officials and MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco and officers of Manila Water and Maynilad.
“I would like to thank and commend MWSS Administrator Velasco for his commitment and advocacy in helping DENR in our mandate to preserve and conserve our environment through this Annual Million Tree Challenge,” Cimatu said.
“I am very much honored to become a part of this project. DENR will include this under its National Greening Program (NGP) in the next five years and will make the protection of the identified six watersheds as top priorities,” the DENR chief added.
These watersheds are those in Angat which covers a land area of 55,709 hectares; Umiray, 16,000 hectares; Ipo, 6,600 hectares; La Mesa,- 2,659 hectares; Marikina, 28,000 hectares, and Laguna de Bay, 388,000 hectares.
The DENR has identified 143 critical watersheds throughout the country. The forest cover in the country has already dwindled significantly by 328,682 hectares from 7,168,400 hectares in 2003 to 6,839,718 hectares in 2010 or an annual forest cover loss of 46,954 hectares.
Describing the annual million tree challenge as “a beacon of hope for many Filipinos,” Cimatu said it is but fitting that the environment sector continue to support such noble advocacy that MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco has initiated in tandem with the DENR.
The AMTC Project was launched at the Ipo Watershed last June 23 whose forest cover was placed at 5790 hectares in 2003, but has since then diminished to 2205 hectares in 2010.
MWSS Administrator Velasco welcomed Secretary Cimatu’s full support for the AMTC designed to plant a million trees every year over the next years under the Duterte administration.
In the DENR conference, Velasco cited the success story and template for sustainable watershed protection in the La Mesa Watershed through the combined efforts of MWSS, the two concessionaires – Manila Water and Maynilad – that fund and support the Bantay Kalikasan that oversee the overall protection said watershed from tree planting, maintenance and nurturing.
The MWSS chief said that the continuing and ever-increasing environmental threats to our watersheds have put a stronger impetus on the need to conserve them.
“Watersheds serve a very important role in maintaining a sustainable and quality water supply to our dams and, at the same time, maintaining adequate ecological balance,” added Velasco.
For the AMTC Project, the MWSS chief recommended to Secretary Cimatu who outrightly approved the creation of a multi-agency task force through a joint circular involving other agencies such as DILG, DepED, LGUs, LLDA and Napocor as well as the fomation of respective watershed managenent councils similar to the La Mesa Watershed Managenent Council that recently approved a 25-year sustainable plan. (Melandrew T. Velasco/PhilAmPress)