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Extent of watershed's degradation fuels 'bayanihan' bidCatherine J. Teves

MANILA, June 21 – Environmental protection is everyone's concern.

Such is the message the environment department aims further spreading through a coin bank campaign this agency plans launching in September 2014 to sustain public support or 'bayanihan' for rehabilitating 26,125-ha. Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL), the watershed providing ecological services to Metro Manila and nearby areas.

"We want to place, in movie houses' entrances, five-gallon sealed water bottles where people can drop their contributions for the rehabilitation," said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region IV-A Regional Executive Dir. Reynulfo Juan who has jurisdiction over the watershed.

He said people can also offer non-financial assistance for helping address deforestation, pollution,poverty and other issues in UMRBPL

DENR is optimistic the campaign will help generate more public interest in the undertaking, noting there appears to be a decline in number of people participating in activities for better managing the watershed.

"Aside from generating funds for the rehabilitation, the campaign seeks to better raise awareness about need for concerted effort on saving UMRBPL," Juan said.

To support the fund-raising bid, DENR aims producing a three-minute plug highlighting need for UMRBPL's rehabilitation.

UMRBPL was once a watershed reserve Executive Order 33 established in 1904 to protect Manila's water source.

Presidential Proclamation 296 in 2011 established UMRBPL and placed this watershed under DENR's administrative jurisdiction and control, however.

At present, the watershed covers Antipolo City as well as Rizal province's San Mateo, Rodriguez, Baras and Tanay municipalities.

A 2012-2013 study shows there are about 9,000 households in nine villages within UMRBPL, noted USAID.

USAID is among DENR's foreign partners in rehabilitating UMRBPL.

Experts said degradation in UMRBPL, including deforestation or loss of forests there, already jeopardized this watershed's capability to provide ecological services.

They noted deforestation, for instance, diminishes a watershed's capability to regulate water flowing from this area to nearby low-lying locations.

Deforestation also drives soil erosion which results in siltation of waterways and water bodies, reducing water-carrying capacity and water flow there so these tend to overflow, they warned.

Flooding during tropical storm 'Ondoy' (international name 'Ketsana') in 2009 exposed extent of UMRBPL's degradation.

'Ondoy' flood waters submerged a number of communities there and nearby low-lying areas including Metro Manila.

The flooding as well as death and destruction from such disaster fueled public-private partnerships on rehabilitating UMRBPL to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

For its coin bank campaign, DENR targets using 100 sealed bottles which this agency said either bottling or water refilling companies can donate.

"Management of the funds, including distribution and collection of bottles containing contributions, will be done by a reputable organization or foundation engaged in rehabilitating UMRBPL," said DENR.

The agency also said everyone will be able to access reports on corresponding collections and expenses as these will be posted on the campaign's Facebook page.

Such page will likewise show various UMRBPL-related activities funded by proceeds from the campaign.

DENR chose water bottles for its coin bank campaign to highlight transparency this agency assured pursuing for the undertaking.

"We aim promoting transparency throughout such campaign," said Juan.

He believes transparency is vital in increasing public interest in and action on rehabilitating UMRBPL.

"The rehabilitation work's magnitude and required funding is enormous so we need all the help we can get," he said.

Juan noted rehabilitation measures for UMRBPL are anchored on four thematic areas: climate change and disaster risk reduction, solid waste management, biodiversity conservation as well as water quality and resource management.

Those thematic areas reflect recommendations made during the UMRBPL stakeholders' forum DENR spearheaded in Metro Manila last month, he said.

Participants in that forum discussed status of rehabilitation work in the watershed, identified gaps in managing that area and came up with the recommendations to address these.

During the coin bank campaign's first year, DENR aims to collect at least PHP500,000 for further reforestation, maintenance of forest plantations established in UMRBPL, information dissemination and other advocacy-related activities.

Other target activities for the same year and estimated costing for each are the campaign's launch (PHP150,000), printing of 100 posters and flyers for distribution and display (PHP200,000) as well as development and production of a three-minute cinema plug for airing in movie houses (PHP750,000).

The plug will show images and footages from storm 'Ondoy' and devastation this caused as well as various activities done to rehabilitate UMRBPL, noted DENR.

DENR also said the plug will highlight UMRBPL's importance to Metro Manila and need for all to help rehabilitate this watershed.

Authorities link UMRBPL's deforestation to land conversion and speculation, charcoal-making and fuel wood collection, slash-and-burn agriculture, residential development as well as illegal logging and timber poaching.

USAID reported forest cover in UMRBPL already shrank by 7.1 percent or 465 has. to 6,105 has. in 2010 from what this was in 2003.

Juan said DENR and its partners already completed reforesting 10,427 has. of land in UMRBPL using some five million tree seedlings.

Such accomplishment exceeded the 10,000 has. government earlier targeted.reforesting there by 2016, he noted.

"We completed the work some two years ahead of schedule," he said.

Reforestation must be scaled up to further address loss of forests and other issues in UMRBPL, however, Juan noted.

To achieve such target, he said DENR earlier set reforesting an additional 5,000 has. this year using around 2.5 million tree seedlings.

He added DENR welcomes partners for such activity as government can't undertake the work alone. (PNA)

CTB/CJT

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