Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 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 to protect the watersheds in an executive conference at the DENR Office the other day attended by the department’s top officials as well as 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. 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 said.
These watersheds are Angat which covers a land area of 55,709 ha; Umiray – 16,000 ha; Ipo – 6,600 ha; La Mesa – 2,659 ha; Marikina – 28,000 ha, and Laguna de Bay –388,000 ha.
The DENR has identified 143 critical watersheds throughout the country. It is important to note that the forest cover in the country has already dwindled significantly by 328,682 hectares from 7,168,400 ha in 2003 to 6,839,718 ha 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 we, in the environment sector, continue to suppor such noble advocacy that MWSS Administrator Rey Velasco has initiated in tandem with 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.
For his part, MWSS Administrator Velasco welcomed Secretary Cimatu’s full support for the AMTC even as he cited the success story and template for sustainable water protection in the La Mesa Watershed through the combined efforts of MWSS, the two concessionaires – Manila Water and Maynilad – that dund 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 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.