Flood-prone communities help protect La Mesa Watershed

MANILA, Philippines – Around 130 individuals from the flood-prone barangays of Potrero and Catmon in Malabon City, and Balangkas and Tagalag in Valenzuela City participated in the "Protect-a-Hectare" treeplanting program of the La Mesa Watershed on Sunday, September 7. A total of 720 seedlings were planted across 1.7 hectares during the activity, with an additional 2,200 to be planted in another 5.3 hectares.

Braving the heat of the sun, participants trekked 2 kilometers to the tree-planting site. Once there, they underwent the task of planting the young trees in rows. The types of endemic trees planted included White Lauan, Dau, Calumpit, Tindalo, Kamagong, and Bignay Kalabaw.

Sponsored by the Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development (ACCORD), CARE Nederland, Corporate Network for Disaster Response (CNDR), Philippine Red Cross and the Netherlands Red Cross (NLRC) through the Partners for Resilience (PfR) Project, the activity is part of a broader campaign of building resilient communities through climate-proof and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (DRR-CCA-EMR).

According to Guineviene De Jesus, NLRC PfR Coordinator, “The activity underscored how these communities are connected to the La Mesa Watershed. Strengthening its water absorptive capacity is a factor that could contribute to mitigation of floods in the low-lying areas of Malabon and Valenzuela."

The La Mesa Watershed serves as the main source of fresh water for Metro Manila. As the last remaining forest of its size in the metropolis, it also absorbs the carbon emissions from vehicles and factories.

For Merdi Jean Arcilla of ACCORD, one of the PfR Project's local implementing partners, "By planting trees, these communities now have a stake in protecting the watershed from possible degradation. The campaign to rehabilitate the watershed has already achieved much, but we must all remain proactive and vigilant."

De Jesus further emphasized the importance of forging partnerships among stakeholders in achieving resilient communities. 

The activity also drew participants from the Malabon City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the Department of Education (DepEd), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Valenzuela City Government.

The PfR organizations, together with their partner communities, have committed to protect and take care of the hectares that they have planted for the coming years. Melchor Macabalitao, Potrero barangay councilor, said, "This is our small contribution for the protection of this watershed, which will continue to protect future generations of our residents."

The PfR project is a 5-year global project funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and operates in 9 countries across Asia, Africa, and Central America. – Rappler.com