Million Trees Foundation saving country’s watersheds


MANILA – One noble project considered as a legacy of President Rodrigo Duterte is the establishment of the Million Trees Foundation (MTF) that would ensure the continuity and sustainability of the Annual Million Trees Challenge (AMTC) for the rehabilitation of seven critical watersheds in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

This was emphasized by Reynaldo Velasco, chair of the board of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, in a statement to the Philippine News Agency Saturday.

Velasco also cited the importance of the incorporation and registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the MTF, a five-year watershed rehabilitation program launched in February 2017.

AMTC will benefit critical watersheds namely Angat, Ipo, Kaliwa, La Mesa, Laguna Lake, Umiray, and Upper Marikina, including Manila Bay, through the planting of one million trees yearly.

It was in response to President Duterte’s socio-economic development agenda, the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.

The AMTC program corresponds with the PDP focus areas on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem resilience through partnerships in rehabilitating critical watersheds and convergence/complementation of resources.

Until December 2020, a total of 4,021,626 seedlings have been planted in the watersheds while 9,509.375 hectares 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.

The River Basin Control Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources also identified 142 critical watersheds.

MTF will network with international foundations and entities focused on watershed management and planting of trees. Inspired by success stories in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, it will utilize drones for tree-planting, especially at the Rizal/Wawa watershed, to fast-track tree-planting targets.

Million Trees Foundation is advocating for the planting of bamboos along river banks; and narra and ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) trees in the other areas. It will also push for the massive planting of bamboos along riverbanks in Marikina and Laguna Lake.

Bamboos help absorb excess water, cut soil losses, and minimize soil erosion.

The foundation is not only concerned with tree-planting, reforestation and environmental sustainability.

“We also want to provide livelihood opportunities to people, particular those in the communities through our tree-planting advocacy,” Velasco said.

The livelihood projects include putting up a nursery for saplings to be planted in target areas, engaging local settlers to take care of the nursery and planted areas, developing wood carving home industries, and organizing small/marginalized farmers to be suppliers of ylang-ylang flowers to manufacturers. (PNA)