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To help increase and sustain water supply in Metro Manila, Nestlé Philippines Inc. and World Wide Fund (WWF) - Philippines, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) have embarked on a project to rehabilitate 150 hectares of the Ipo Watershed with 75,000 trees. The project, called Forests for Water: Nestlé for Ipo Watershed, was kicked-off on July 18, 2017 with the planting of 2000 trees at the site in Ipo Watershed, Norzagaray, Bulacan.

Ipo Watershed is a vital link in the Angat-Umiray-Ipo Watershed that supplies 98% of all the water needs of Metro Manila. Forest cover in Ipo has dramatically dropped from 85% to just 40% in recent years. The lack of trees, mostly due to informal settlers and/or illegal logging, has resulted in less water being absorbed by the dam during rainfall. Less trees also add to soil run-off, which makes the dam water difficult to filter, which also causes shortages of supply.

The three-year partnership aims to rehabilitate a portion of the 7,000-hectare watershed that consists primarily of public forestlands. During the launch, around 150 volunteers from Nestlé, WWF, DENR, MWSS, and the local forest guards or Bantay Gubat joined forces to help plant trees at the site after a short program at the Ipo dam.

 

The program was opened by Nestlé Philippines Chairman and CEO Jacques Reber, after Norzagaray Mayor Geronimo Cristobal Jr. gave his welcoming remarks. Keynote speeches were then given by Marlo Mendoza, DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations and Staff Bureaus, who represented DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu;  Atty Annaliza Teh, DENR Usec. for Climate Change Service; and Atty Noel Felongco, DENR Usec. For Solid Waste Mgmt, Local Government and Indigenous Peoples’ Concerns. WWF Ambassador Marc Nelson then took the stage to explain the significance of the project, followed by WWF CEO Joel Palma. WWF Forests for Water Program Director Paolo Pagaduan then gave a short brief of the trek, boat ride and planting procedure. All volunteers had to take a 15 minute boat ride and a 15 minute trek through several streams to reach the denuded area to plant trees such as narra and fruit-bearing trees.

All speakers lauded the partnership that promises to create awareness in the importance of improving forest cover to ensure water supply in the future. WWF also stressed the importance of partnering with the local Dumagat tribe, the men of which are now employed by the program as forest guards or “Bantay Gubat”. The tribal community was given this livelihood opportunity among others to help prevent the logging of trees in the watershed. 

Nestlé embarked on the program as part of the Nestlé global celebration of its 150th anniversary in 2016. Besides this project, Nestlé has also launched 150 model coffee farms across in Bukidnon, Sultan Kudarat and Cavite to aid the robusta coffee industry, and 150 School NutriGardens across the country to help combat malnutrition with partner East-West Seed Foundation.

WWF Philippines, through its Forests for Water program, aims to not only rehabilitate crucial water resources in Isabela, Laguna, and Rizal, but also to inform the general public about the relation of forest cover to water supply. These activities are in line with Nestlé’s purpose, to enhance quality of life and contribute to a healthier future.