Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco has called for a sustainable integrated watershed management program in the wake of the increase in the turbidity level at Ipo dam of raw water being supplied to its service areas even as he lauded the collective efforts among government and private sectors to protect the environment.


“Recognizing the importance of watersheds in supporting the water supply of Metro Manila and adjoining provinces, MWSS needs to come up with an integrated approach towards sustainable management and protection of the watersheds,” Velasco said.


One notable project of MWSS is the Annual Million Tree Challenge (AMTC), a reforestation project, which aims to plant one million trees per year for five years in support of President Rodrigo Duterte administration’ s campaign to reforest the Philippines. It mainly focuses on six watersheds – Umiray, Angat, Ipo, La Mesa, Marikina Watershed, and Laguna Lake. On its maiden year in 2017, the AMTC Project surpassed its target at 1,258,000 trees planted and it received 1,550,00 committed trees to be planted this 2018.


Just recently, concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water were cited by MWSS and DENR on their respective watershed projects underscoring their important roles on sustainable watershed management program especially in Ipo dam. The increase in the turbidity level triggered intermittent water supply experienced in Metro Manila and several barangays in Bulacan.


Manila Water has its Adopt-a-Watershed Program that started in 2006 where the company recognizes to protect its water sources which are the Ipo, La Mesa and Marikina Watershed. Through this program, it has already reforested over 149 hectares in the Ipo Watershed. Manila Water has also continuously implemented various watershed management initiatives with key stakeholders.


For Maynilad, it has its Plant for Life, a multi-state reforestation program that started in 2007 for enduring rehabilitation of La Mesa watershed then expanded to the Ipo watershed in partnership with various private and government entities notably the inclusion of the Dumagats as the stewards of the planted trees and thereby providing steady source of livelihood among indigenous peoples.


“Long-term, we are thinking of a Corporate Forestry Watershed Legacy Program to encourage the adoption by various corporations and other entities of thousands of hectares of denuded portions of Ipo Dam geared towards integrated watershed management plan to reforest, maintain favourable environmental conditions and to improve the quality and amount of potable water supply to our constituents,” Velasco added.


According to Velasco, the three MWSS concessionaires – Maynilad, Manila Water and Bulacan Bulk Water – can initially adopt 50,000 hectares each at Ipo as part of the Corporate Forestry Watershed Legacy Program and to encourage their mother companies such as the MVP Group of Companies, Ayala and San Miguel Corporation to be part of the Annual Million Tree Challenge as well as proper management, protection and nurturing of trees in the critical watersheds.


In line with this, MWSS signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on 27 September 2017, with the local government unit of General Nakar, Quezon. The MOA aims to bolster the existing watershed management initiative at the General Nakar Watersheds towards long-term sustainability for the existing and future projects such as the Sumag Diversion Project and th rehabilitation of Umiray-AngatTransbasin Tunnel project and in preparation for the 600 MLD Kaliwa dam project.


With the support of multi-partite stakeholders, the enhanced sustainable watershed management program will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a result of deforestation and forest degradation, increase carbon sink capacity, and improve water flow regulation.


Trees in the watersheds absorb rainwater which channels it into streams, rivers, and eventually dams where fresh water is sourced. Thus, the need to protect the trees in the watersheds will help lessen the turbidity on the quality of water among the dam caused by numerous landslides.


It can be seen that the Ipo Dam is still experiencing several illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming, and charcoal making as the main causes of deforestation which was identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2004.