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Thursday, December 10, 2020

Massive Ipo Watershed Reforestation Slated Next Year


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DENR, GCash, WWF and BIOFIN to plant 365,000 native trees in 2021

Ipo Watershed, which supplies fresh water to 20 million people living or working in Metro Manila, will be bolstered with hundreds of thousands of new trees next year.

Through donations generated from GCash, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the United Nations Development Programme’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will plant the first of 365,000 native trees like Narra, Lauaan, Kupang and Yakal as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in 2021.

“We originally wanted to plant in mid-2020, but decided to heed lockdown guidelines to ensure public safety,” explains Mabel Niala, Mynt Public Affairs and CSR Head of GCash. GCash is the Philippines’ top cashless service and serves a fifth of its population, plus 75,000 partner merchants and 75 nonprofits.

Using their mobile phones, users can plant trees through GCash Forest. Users earn Green Energy Points by reducing their individual carbon footprints. Paying bills online for instance, eliminates the need to drive to a bank and consume paper for receipts and forms. More points can be garnered for walking to work, taking the stairs and avoiding single-use plastic items.

When users reach 20,560 points, his or her virtual tree will be fully-grown and a corresponding native tree shall be planted in Ipo Watershed.


Cover photo:

Rainforestation is the process of restoring ailing forests with native rainforest species instead of commercial or fruit-bearing trees. Ipo Watershed’s plant nursery brims with native species like Yakal, Kupang, Narra, Lauaan and Dau. DENR, GCash, BIOFIN and WWF aim to plant 365,000 new trees as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in 2021.

Watersheds host resident and migratory populations of waterbirds, such as this pair of rare Philippine Ducks (Anas luzonica).



Trees for Water

Trees provide innumerable services for people and nature. They provide oxygen, shade, habitats, erosion-control, food, medicine and other benefits.

Sadly, they are being cut down at astronomical rates. The Philippines is losing at least 52,000 trees daily. Logging, slash-and-burn-farming and land development are annually erasing 47,000 hectares of forestland – an area thrice the size of Quezon City. Just 7.168 million hectares of forestland remains in the Philippines.

Watersheds are zones which naturally collect and store water. They are typically heavily-vegetated because trees absorb rainwater which drains into streams, rivers and lakes.

Ipo Watershed, together with the Angat and Umiray watersheds, supplies 98% of Metro Manila’s water needs. Situated northeast of the sprawling Metropolis, it covers 7236 hectares in Norzagaray and San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan, plus Rodriguez in Rizal. It is home to several species of charismatic animals, including the Philippine Brown Deer, Philippine Warty Pig, Tarictic Hornbill, Grey-headed Fish Eagle and Osprey.

Though protected by several proclamations including a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title for the Indigenous Dumagat tribes of the watershed, Ipo Watershed is pockmarked by patches of burnt soil. From 85%, forest cover plummeted to 40% in recent years, mostly due to slash-and-burn or kaingin farming and charcoal-making.

It is estimated that for 2021, Metro Manila’s water demands will overtake supply by as much as 13% during peak days, meaning more dry faucets and unserved households – but taking care of watersheds can avert this.

“GCash Forest has proven that mobile technology can generate real change for our forests,” says Niala. “Everyone can now get a chance to plant a tree through the click of a button. If you haven’t tried GCash Forest yet, please download the app and help restore our forests today.”


Water scarcity is a daily reality of millions of people. Planting trees and protecting groundwater sources is a form of insurance to keep our taps flowing.

Ipo Watershed, together with the Angat and Umiray Watersheds, supplies 98% of the water requirements of Metro Manila, one of the world’s most densely-populated cities with a daytime population of 20 million people. In March 2019, 10,000 households lost access to fresh water owing to reduced water levels in nearby La Mesa Dam. Conversely, the lack of trees around Metro Manila contributed to massive and highly-destructive floods in late 2020.


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