Columns Environment & Climate

The Outsider: Partnerships for watershed protection and water security

Coinciding with the celebration of Philippine Environment Month last June, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) led by MWSS Leonor Cleofas together with the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MTFI) recognized partners in the Annual Million Trees Challenge (AMTC) project.
It was an auspicious event as the AMTC awards and pledging session for 2023 was also held on 27 June 2023, two days after Arbor Day.
As President and Executive Director of MTFI, I am happy to note that once more like previous years the commitments of AMTC project partners breached the one million trees target. The goal is to plant 10 million more trees until 2030. To date, 6.8 million trees have been planted in the seven critical watershed beneficiaries of AMTC.
Closed forest cover in the watersheds increased by 5,734 hectares in 2020. It has been seven year ago when MWSS under Administrator Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco (ret) initiated the AMTC to rehabilitate the watersheds of Angat-Ipo, Kaliwa, La Mesa, Laguna Lake, Umiray, Upper Marikina, and Manila Bay that are critical to the water supply for Metro Manila and adjoining provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, and parts of Cavite. It is a step toward achieving water security in MWSS coverage areas.
MTFI is the non-government organization partner of MWSS to ensure the sustainability of the AMTC. Together with more than 30 participating organizations, the objective of rehabilitating the watersheds is achievable.
And involvement of the private sector is important in this endeavor.
In her address before the Financial Inclusion for Women, Water and Climate Resilience Forum organized by the Financial Executives of the Philippines (FINEX), DENR Secretary Antonia Loyzaga underscored water security can be achieved if government and all other stakeholders will work together.
“There is no substitute at this moment for coherence, convergence and synergy in water governance,” Loyzaga said. “With your partnership, I know, these are all possible and water security can be reached and achieved for the Philippines,” she told participants to the forum.
Recognizing the contribution of AMTC project partners, MWSS and MTFI conferred to them Kampeon ng Tubig Kanlugan Awards, Million Trees Achievers, and AMTC Champion of Trees Awards. Plaques of Appreciation and Special Awards were also handed out.
Recipients of the Kampeon ng Tubig Kanlungan Awards were ‭SMC President Ramon S. Ang, ‬Maynilad President Ramoncito S. Fernandez, Manila Water President Jocot de Dios, Santa Clara International Chairman Nicandro Linao, and Manila Water Foundation Executive Director Reginald Andal for their significant roles as institutional partners of the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. and the Million Trees Nursery and Eco Learning Center in support of AMTC; DENR NCR Regional Executive Director Jacqueline Caancan for being an institutional partner of the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. for the supply of tree saplings and other collaborative efforts in support of AMTC; Gen. Nakar Mayor Elizeo Ruzol for his significant role in the implementation of the Kaliwa Dam Project to include reforestation in said area; and ‭ ‬DENR Region 4A Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria for his significant role as Top Performer with close to 90,000 trees planted for AMTC CY 2022.
Five were recognized as Million Trees Achievers: San Miguel Corporation for having planted more than five million trees in eight provinces under its 747 SMC Global Power Greening Program; Maynilad for achieving its one-millionth tree planted in December 2022 under its Plant for Life project; Manila Water for having planted 1.382,114 million from 1997 to 2022; DENR 4-A for having planted 1,860,095 from 2017 to 2022; and, DENR Region 3 for having planted 2,063,515 from 2017 to 2022.
The AMTC Champion of Trees Award was presented to agencies that planted at least 25,000 trees or more for 2022. Garnering the awards were MWSS Regulatory Office, CSBS Consortium, Laguna
Lake‭ ‬ ‭ ‬Development‭ ‬ ‭ ‬Authority,‭ ‬ ‭ ‬General‭ ‬ ‭ ‬Nakar‭ ‬ ‭ ‬LGU,‭ ‬ ‭ ‬DENR‭ ‬ ‭ ‬NCR,‭ ‬ ‭ ‬Prime‭ ‬ ‭ ‬Water,‭ ‬ ‭ ‬MWSS Corporate Office, Maynilad, Manila Water, DENR Region 3, and DENR Region 4A. 
Participants and stakeholders who have actively participated and supported the implementation of the AMTC 2022 among them: Newport World Resorts, SGS Philippines Inc., MCVO Talent 
Outsourcing Services, The Raya School – Fairview, Selma Shipping Philippines Inc., Rotary District 3830 DG Mildred Vitangcol, Rotary District 3800 DG Arturo Tanyag, Netflix Philippines, New World Hotel Makati, Nestle Philippine Inc., Philippine Bamboo Development Industry Council Executive Director Rene E. Madarang, National Federation of Woman’s Club and Ligao Woman’s Club President Linda Gonzales, Rotary Club of Manila Claro M. Recto Rotary President Jennifer Chuacoco, National Council of Women of The Philippines President Cecille Dy, JCI Senate Philippines JCI National President Alfie
Fernandez, Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation, ABS CBN Foundation, Inc. Bantay Kalikasan, and DOHWA-EDCOP were given Plaques of Appreciation.
Meanwhile, Special Awards were given to Rotary Club of Makati Gems MIP Alain Coros, JCI Senate Philippines GreenLink Project Chairperson JCI Sen. Lia Seelin, Lingayen Mayor Leopoldo N. Bataoil, ECARMA Health Options Corporation President TJ Meneses, Jumpcat  Experiment & “Ang Manglalakbay”, Brilliant Jerk Production, Marie Antonette De Ocampo of Maynilad, Respect: Noble Queen of the Universe Ltd. Inc., and Visual Artist Janddie Castillo. Likewise, media entities and practitioners were handed Special Award plaques for supporting the AMTC, Million Trees Foundation and MWSS.
Journalist Jim Robbins, author of ‭The Man Who Planted Trees ‬said “Planting trees may be the single most important ecotechnology that we have to put the broken pieces of our planet back together.”
We at the MTFI hope more partnerships will be forged for water security.