© WWF-Philippines / Josh Alibcag
Forest for Water
WWF-Philippines’ Forest for Water project has been working in Ipo Watershed since 2016 and continues to make great progress in ensuring that the forests in the Bulacan reservoir are restored to a healthy and productive state. As of 2023, the indigenous Dumagat tribe that reside in the watershed remain central to the project as long-term community partners.

© WWF-Philippines / Alo Lantin

The link between forests and water

The importance of trees in improving air quality is clear for many people, but not so much the critical link between forests and water. A watershed is an area of land that allows water to drain into a nearby body of water, like rivers or lakes. 

While the natural behavior of water is to flow on the soil surface and down towards the river, the extensive root system of trees directs water into the ground and becomes absorbed by the soil like a sponge. By planting more trees and sustainably managing forests, water can be better absorbed in healthy forest soil. During hot, dry months, the water stored in the watershed's soil slowly seeps into the river, ensuring the water supply is constant and stable. If there are not enough trees, more water will flow over the soil and directly into the river and then out to the sea instead of being stored for a later time.

One of the biggest economic threats is water shortage—a lack of freshwater will significantly impact farming and manufacturing processes. According to studies by scientists, there has been a 30% loss of freshwater ecosystems since 1970. Freshwater is a finite resource that we cannot live without, but its protection has been long neglected. Preserving and protecting our most important resource is key to a sustainable future. 

© WWF-Philippines/Alo Lantin

Partners in rehabilitation

In 2016, the Manila Water Company, Inc. sought partners for reforestation activities at the Ipo Watershed and to assist the local Dumagat communities. The many denuded areas of the forests are also a key concern for the Dumagat tribe that lives inside the Ipo Watershed. Recognizing the Ipo Watershed’s significant role in Metro Manila’s water security, WWF-Philippines started the Forests for Water program in partnership with the local Dumagat community to restore the forests and improve the watershed.

Members of the Dumagat tribe take care of the forests and protect them from loggers who cut down trees to sell as lumber. Being residents makes them the best stewards of their environment and allows them to give recommendations on how to safeguard the forests best.

The Dumagat tribe’s intuitive connection to their ancestral land was combined with scientific environmental protection practices to help rehabilitate the Ipo Watershed. They conduct surveys, patrols, and serve as guides to the forest. They are the front liners against activities that harm the watershed.

While the forest cover has improved over the past several years through consistent and hard work, many areas still need to be rehabilitated. Continuing the project and the partnership with the Dumagat will be vital for the full restoration of the watershed and the security of the water supply for millions of Filipinos in Metro Manila.


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