Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has endorsed to Malacanang the proposed proclamation of the Marikina Watershed Reservation as a protected area pursuant to Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.

Paje signed the endorsement on Monday (Sept. 26) at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City following the signing of the “Statement of Commitment to Save the Marikina Watershed” by various key stakeholders pushing for its declaration as a protected area.

“We have recommended to President Aquino the declaration of the Marikina watershed as a protected area. Once declared, the management of Marikina watershed will be changed into a protected area management regime,” Paje said, adding that under such a regime, exploitation and cutting of trees within the watershed would be reduced.

Paje also said that the DENR, together with the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP), the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF), the Alliance of 7, Rizal provincial government, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and all other stakeholders, has committed to plant five million trees from 2011 to 2016 under the National Greening Program (NGP).

“In the Statement of Commitment we just signed with other stakeholders, we will plant five million trees to rehabilitate the Marikina watershed to enhance its water-holding capacity to reduce siltation and flash flooding,” Paje explained.

Paje, who is also a forester, explained that a forested area could prevent flash flooding as it would absorb most rainwater and release it slowly to the lowlands. Forest is also important in preventing or minimizing soil erosion, according to him.

The commitment signing coincided with the second anniversary of typhoon “Ondoy” which caused massive flooding in Metro Manila and several municipalities in Rizal.

Among the signatories include Sec. Neric Acosta, presidential adviser and general manager of the LLDA, Atty. Francis Tolentino, chairman of MMDA, Atty. Christian Monsod of CCCP, Klaas Oreel of PDRF, Rizal Vice Gov. Frisco San Juan and Sec. Paje.

As proposed the Marikina Watershed Reservation will then be known as the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape, and will cover 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.

Paje also stressed that the declaration of the watershed as a protected area 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.

Among the endangered wildlife species found in the Marikina watershed include 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.

DENR records indicate that the Marikina Watershed Reservation was established by virtue of Executive Order No. 33, issued on July 26, 1904, thereby making it part of the initial component of the NIPAS.