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DENR chief warns PHL critical watersheds need immediate protection, rehabilitation

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More than 130 critical watersheds desperately need immediate protection and rehabilitation to minimize erosion and improve water yield that will ensure a sustainable supply of fresh water in the Philippines, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said on Wednesday.

Speaking during the launch of the Save Our Watersheds Campaign, Cimatu said without watersheds, there will be no supply of fresh water that will sustain the various economic activities in the Philippines.

It is in this premise, he said, that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through the Forest Management Bureau (FMB), is launching Save Our Watersheds Campaign together with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

Save Our Watersheds Campaign is being implemented under the Forestland Management Program (FMP), a foreign assisted project under the DENR’s Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS) and funded by the Government of Japan through Official Development Assistance (ODA).

According to the DENR chief, protecting and rehabilitating the country’s watersheds will ensure that the country’s primary sources of freshwater will continue to provide the benefits that will support the economic and political well-being of the people as a nation.

“Let us be constantly reminded that appropriate stewardship is needed for our watersheds for us to mitigate the impact of climate change,” he said.

The Philippines is blessed with fresh water sources but the country’s fresh water supply is threatened.

The Philippines has 412 principal river basins in 119 proclaimed watersheds. Of these, 19 are considered major river basins. The longest river is Cagayan River, which is currently the subject of massive rehabilitation by the Task Force Build Back Better.  There are also over 100 lakes in the Philippines. Of the more than 142 critical watersheds, Cimatu said more than 130 desperately need protection and rehabilitation.  In 2019, the DENR chief has ordered the FMB to focus reforestation activities under the National Greening Program (NGP) to improve the condition of the country’s critical watersheds.

According to Cimatu, saving watersheds will require protection, which means implementing a policy totally banning all logging activities or tree-cutting of trees in watersheds.

“How will save our watersheds?  We have to protect it. We should not cut any trees in the watershed,” he said.

According to Cimatu, a protected area that overlaps with watersheds should not be abused.

“Meaning, there should be no cutting [of trees]. If we have to add additional trees, we should plant [them].  And the trees that we plant should not be cut [down] forever,” he stressed.

According to Cimatu, for him, importing wood is better than cutting down treess. “I’d rather buy lumber from outside than cut our own trees, because to me, [our trees are] more important,” he said.

He said to sustain the program to be spearheaded by the Forest Management Bureau, the DENR will endeavor to put in place a national directive in the form of an executive order that the DENR will endorse to Malacañang for the President’s approval, putting in place institutional mechanism for “a whole-of-society and a collaborative effort in preserving the country’s watersheds.”

‘Plant for Life’

Maynilad Water Services Inc., meanwhile, announced it is holding its “Plant for Life” program, the country’s annual tree-planting initiative to help rehabilitate watersheds, as part of the country’s annual Arbor Day Celebration.

The private water concessionaire of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) for the West Zone is helping rehabilitate watersheds in Angat, Ipo, Umiray and La Mesa.

“Some 15 million people in Metro Manila and nearby provinces rely on raw water sourced from dams that are replenished by watersheds. Given this dependence on the health of our watersheds—particularly those in Angat, Ipo, Umiray, and La Mesa—intensified preservation initiatives are being implemented in these areas to ensure sufficient supply and good quality of raw water,” Maynilad said in a news statement.

In celebration of Philippine Arbor Day, Maynilad is again joining hands with various institutions to boost government effort in rehabilitating watersheds.

“To date, we have already planted more than 600,000 trees over 800 hectares of the Ipo Watershed, but there is still so much more to do. Our community volunteers planted 200 palosapis and ipil trees at La Mesa Watershed last June 23, 2021,” Maynilad said.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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