Restoring forest in historically degraded watershed areas was a tall order when MWSS launched the Annual Million Tree Challenge (AMTC) in 2017. MWSS has partnered with the national government, private sector, indigenous peoples, environmental leaders, and non-governmental organizations to protect and maintain the ecosystem health of Angat, Ipo, Kaliwa, La Mesa, Laguna Lake, Umiray, and Upper Marikina, including Manila Bay. Prior to the AMTC program, the Ipo watershed, which generates fresh water that flows to the Ipo Dam and then to the La Mesa Dam, was in a bad state. Tree planting activities have been ongoing in the 6,600-hectare Ipo watershed for years, but survival rates of the trees have been low due to slash and burn agriculture, charcoal production, and timber poaching. At the time of the AMTC program’s inception, only 40% of the Ipo watershed’s tree canopy remained.
The AMTC-initiated tree planting activities have become a force multiplier in forest protection and conservation, as well as forest restoration and reforestation. In the first and second years of the program, the AMTC partners worked together to plant and care for 1.3 million trees in the -Ipo Watershed. Over 2.3 million nurtured trees increased the tree canopy in over 5,000 hectares of the 6,600 hectares of the Ipo Watershed in its fourth year, representing an 80 percent increase in forest cover.
To reflect on the success of the environmental stewardship forged through the AMTC partnership and to serve as a timely reminder of the vision of a healthy watershed, MWSS felt it was appropriate to recognize the top watershed advocates during the program’s soft close. On 14 September 2021, the AMTC Awarding and Recognition program was held in a hybrid format (5% in-person and 95% virtual) at the MWSS Bulwagan. The following corporate partners were recognized:
|1. Million Tree Achiever||DENR Region 3|
|2. Champion of Trees||Awardees: (1) ABS CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc., – Bantay Kalikasan, (2) World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines; (3) UP Mountaineers; (4) DENR Region 3; (5) DENR Region 4A; (6)DENR NCR; (7) LLDA; (8) Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig; (9) Municipality of General Nakar, Quezon; (10) Manila Water Company, Inc.; (11) Maynilad Water Servcies, Inc.; and (12) MWSS Regulatory Office.
|3. Sustainable Management of Forest Award||Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council|
Special individual awards were also given to the following:
|1. Kampeon ng Tubig Kanlugan||(1) DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu
(2) ALKFI Managing Director Gina Lopez (post-humous)
(3) MWSS Chairman Reynaldo Velasco
(4) DENR Regional Executive Director Francisco E. Milla, Jr.
(5) Forester Emmanuel A. Umali, National Power Corp
(6) Mayor Eliseo R. Ruzon, General Nakar
|2. Appreciation Award||(1) Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation
(2) Philippine Water Works Association
(3) JCI Senate Philippines
(4) Boy Scout of the Philippines
(5) Rotary International District 3780
(6) UP Beta Sigma International
(7) Melandrew Velasco
President and CEO, Million Tree Foundation Inc.
(8) Nicandro Linao
President, Sta Clara International Corporation
In his welcome message to the partners, MWSS Chairman Velasco stated, “Since the start of our collaboration in 2017, and with your support, we have planted a total of 4,021,626 seedlings, and after careful nurturing, our vital work has protected and conserved more than 9,509.375 hectares of watershed areas.” The year 2020 was the most difficult planting season for the AMTC program, but it taught us that we can keep our promise to the watershed. Despite the setback caused by the COVID pandemic, 633 thousand trees were planted in 2020, despite a reduced number of pledges of only 212,000. So, let us continue to commit to the trees we have promised to plant this year, as well as to COVID recovery efforts by planting trees. Let us continue to work toward a healthy ecosystem. Let us continue to celebrate life by planting trees.”