15 July 2013

SBMA, Manila Water plant trees

THE Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Manila Water are implementing tree-planting projects as part of their commitment to protect the environment.

The SBMA is planning to plant 25,000 more trees in this free port this month, taking advantage of the onset of the rainy season to make it easier to care for the seedlings.

SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said employees of the agency, along with volunteers from the free-port community, began the monthlong tree-planting program on Friday and will plant succeeding batches of seedlings three more Fridays hence.

For its part, Manila Water said it has planted more than 300,000 seedlings of assorted indigenous and endemic forest-tree species at the Marikina Watershed as part of its commitment to protect the environment.

Manila Water is the East Zone concessionaire of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System that provides water and wastewater services to more than 6.2 million residents of eastern Metro Manila and Rizal province.

The commitment to help rehabilitate the Marikina Watershed was made by Manila Water to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) by planting trees in denuded portions of the Marikina Watershed.

The degradation of the Marikina Watershed, attributed to the massive cutting of trees at the watershed for fuel and for charcoal, which is a major source of income of upland dwellers in the area, is being blamed as the reason the Marikina River became heavily silted.

Because of the siltation, the river easily overflows, flooding low-lying portions of the city and neighboring cities in Metro Manila.

To date, more than 300,000 seedlings of various indigenous and endemic forest-tree species have been planted by Manila Water within the 500-hectare denuded portions of Bosoboso and Tayabasan sub-watersheds.

This also boosted the government effort to rehabilitate the country’s denuded forests.

Under the ambitious National Greening Program (NGP), the flagship reforestation program of the Aquino administration, the government aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of open, degraded and denuded forests all over the country by 2016.

Now on its second year of implementation, the program is anchored on the help and support of the private-sector partners of the DENR, the lead implementing agency of the NGP.

These two sub-watersheds cover more than 50 percent of the entire river basin, which has been identified as the major source of the floodwaters that inundated Metro Manila during Typhoon Ondoy.

On September 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy devastated the National Capital Region and surrounding areas, including the Metro Manila’s east zone, damaging more or less 65,000 water connections and other vital water and wastewater facilities.

The SBMA tree-planting program will supplement a similar project undertaken three years ago by its employees, school children and workers from various companies in the free port.

“As with the first tree-planting program, we would need the help of community organizations and individuals to assist us and bring this worthy endeavor into another successful conclusion,” Garcia said.

“We need more volunteers to get this job done,” he added.

This year’s tree-planting project will bring the volunteers again to the Mount Santa Rita area, which provided the same locale for the reforestation project in 2010. That year some 10,000 seedlings were planted in a month’s time.

Angel Bagaloyos, manager of the SBMA Ecology Center, which is spearheading the tree planting, said various species of forest trees, mostly endemic to the region, and some fruit trees will be planted.

Bagaloyos said the trees planted three years ago are now “already grown and established” because part of the SBMA tree-planting program involved caring for the plants for a period of three years, or until the seedlings have become self-sustainable.

The remaining open patches of land in the largely grassy hillsides of Mount Santa Rita would be ideal planting sites for this year, he added.

As manager of the Subic Bay Special Economic and Freeport Zone, the SBMA is mandated to care for the environment through the agency’s Ecology Center.

Garcia noted that under its environmental conservation program, the SBMA has established its own nursery to collect seeds and grow saplings for reforestation projects.

Through the Ecology Center, the agency has also donated seedlings to schools and community organizations for its tree-planting projects, he said.

Garcia added that individuals and groups who would like to volunteer their help in the upcoming tree-planting activities may register with the SBMA Ecology Center. (Henry EmpeƱo & Jonathan Mayuga, Business Mirror)