Earlier this year, Manila was gripped by a water crisis. At its peak, large parts of Metro Manila had zero water supply, prompting water rationing from local governments and concessionaires. There were viral videos of condominium dwellers fetching water from their pools and barangay residents fighting around water trucks.
It was traced to the late onset of the rainy season, coupled with demand that has outgrown available infrastructure. Much was heard about the then declining water supply at the Angat Dam, Metro Manila’s main water source, and the La Mesa Dam, the emergency reservoir.
But there wasn’t much talk about the Ipo Watershed, the deforestation of which is believed to be one of the root causes of depleted water supply in the reservoirs.
The Ipo watershed was declared a protected area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) but forest cover in the watershed is now only at 40%, a drastic drop from 85% several years ago, according to WWF-Philippines.
Metro Manila relies on the Angat-Umiray-Ipo watershed system for nearly all of its water supply (98 percent, to be exact). This makes it imperative to prevent the watershed’s further degradation, which has been blamed on human activities such as illegal logging and charcoal-making by illegal settlers in the area.
The Philippines’ leading mobile wallet GCash has partnered with WWF-Philippines for the reforestation of the Ipo watershed, aiming to plant 365,000 trees in a year. The partnership launched GCash Forest in June, a feature in the GCash app that allows users to plant trees at the Ipo watershed using green energy points.
Green energy points are earned through frequent use of the app in transactions such as scan to pay and bank transfers, among others. Green energy may also be earned through shifting to more environment-friendly everyday practices, including switching to reusable food containers and utensils in place of single-use plastics.
On Oct. 12, GCash brought its first batch of tree-planters to the Ipo watershed to plant yakal trees within the 300 hectares that GCash has adopted for GCash Forest in Norzagaray, Bulacan. These were GCash users who had earned over 20,000 green energy points.
WWF-Philippines will monitor the growth of trees planted by GCash and identify other native tree species suitable for planting in the watershed.
Through GCash Forest, GCash users are able to do good by Mother Earth while at the same time helping ensure water supply for themselves and future generations.