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Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today said the proclamation of the Marikina watershed into a protected landscape will not only boost the country’s greening efforts but also enhance the water absorptive capacity of the watershed.

“With its proclamation as a protected area, the Marikina watershed will now placed under a regime of management where all native species of plants and animals, including its unique features, are protected for perpetuity, but also its forest cover shall be rehabilitated to enhance its capacity to absorb water ,” Paje said.

Now known as the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL), it covers a total area of 26,125.64 hectares in the city of Antipolo and in the municipalities of Baras, Rodriquez, San Mateo and Tanay, all in the province of Rizal .

UMRBPL’s proclamation came barely two months following a recommendation by various stakeholders for its declaration on the occasion of the second anniversary of the “Ondoy” tragedy held last September 26 at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City.

During that event, officials and representatives of government and non-government organizations, such as the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines, Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation, and Philippine Ecumenical Action for Community Empowerment (PEACE) Foundation, and the Alliance of Seven Cities representing Marikina, Quezon City, Antipolo, Pasig, Cainta, San Mateo and Rodriguez, signed a Statement of Commitment to coordinate their actions to prevent another “Ondoy” tragedy and save the Marikina Watershed Reservation by working for its inclusion in the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).

Among other things, the signatories committed to formulate and implement a comprehensive management plan for the watershed reservation, undertake massive tree planting covering some 10,000 hectares in consonance with the National Greening Program (NGP), and intensify law enforcement in the area.

The group also committed to develop a buffer zone and social fence against urban sprawl, and provide alternative livelihood to settlers and indigenous people in the area to wean them away from kaingin and charcoal–making, two activities largely blamed for tree loss inside watershed.

Paje endorsed the recommendation to President Aquino, saying the proclamation is imperative to maintain the life-support system in its natural condition, and to conserve the rich cultural features and the threatened and endangered Philippine flora and fauna thriving in the area. It is also seen as a potential source of water supply for Metro Manila, and plays a vital role in regulating flooding in the low-lying areas of Rizal and MM.

“The President’s proclamation also promotes the government’s green agenda, particularly on the aspect of expanding the country’s terrestrial protected areas to advance the country’s biodiversity conservation efforts,” Paje said.

Included in the list of endangered wildlife species found in the Marikina watershed are forest trees like narra, red and white lauan, bagtikan, kamagong, and molave; while the wild fauna include birds like the Philippine bulbul, black-naped oriole and jungle fowl; mammals like the Philippine deer, wild pig and the Philippine monkey; and reptile such as the monitor lizard.

The DENR chief stressed, however, that the proclamation of the Marikina watershed shall be “subject to the operations of previous proclamations and property rights and without prejudice to the rights of the indigenous peoples.” The UMRBPL will be under the administrative jurisdiction of the DENR and shall be administered in accordance with the NIPAS Act.