environmental conservation

ABS-CBN Foundation ends 25-year stewardship of La Mesa Watershed

Iya Gozum

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ABS-CBN Foundation ends 25-year stewardship of La Mesa Watershed

SUNLIGHT. Rays from the sun are seen at the entrance of the La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City in this photo taken in 2019.

La Mesa Ecopark

The La Mesa Nature Reserve and La Mesa Ecopark will temporarily be closed to the public starting Monday, February 12, as ABS-CBN Foundation turns over management to MWSS

MANILA, Philippines – After almost 25 years of stewardship, the ABS-CBN Foundation Incorporated (AFI) will turn over management of La Mesa Nature Reserve and La Mesa Ecopark to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

“AFI expresses our heartfelt gratitude to our employees, partners, donors, and supporters for their valuable contributions and support in restoring and sustaining the La Mesa Watershed for almost 25 years,” the foundation said on Thursday, February 8.

The nature reserve will be turned over to MWSS’ corporate office and concessionaires. La Mesa Ecopark, on the other hand, will be handed over to MWSS’ corporate office and the local government of Quezon City.

Because of the turnover, both the nature reserve and the ecopark will be closed to the public starting Monday, February 12.

The nature reserve offers several trails going around the reserve, covered by lush forest canopies. The trails are open to runners, hikers, and bikers.

The La Mesa Watershed, Ipo and Angat watersheds supply water to Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, affected staff will be receiving severance packages. The foundation said they “recognize the challenges our employees at La Mesa may face due to temporary closure.”

What happens now?

The change in management is in line with an interagency agreement among MWSS, Manila Water, and Maynilad on a sustainability roadmap that includes developing the Angat, Ipo, and La Mesa watersheds by 2047.

MWSS and the two concessionaires signed a memorandum of agreement last October 2023 for the Integrated Watershed Management Roadmap for Angat, Ipo, and La Mesa.

Manila Water and Maynilad will fund the programs that will rehabilitate the watersheds.

“You can rely on our commitment and our support to make sure that we will work with all the stakeholders to ensure a robust and well-protected vibrant watershed,” Manila Water president and CEO Jocot de Dios said during the October signing.

There are still no details as to when recreational and outdoor activities in the nature reserve and ecopark will continue.

Rappler has reached out to AFI and MWSS for more details but has yet to receive a response, as of writing.

The foundation’s legacy

In 1999, Bantay Kalikasan, the foundation’s program for the environment, started the Save the La Mesa Watershed campaign. This aimed to reforest 2,700 hectares of the watershed.

The late philanthropist and former environment secretary Gina Lopez, who started serving as AFI’s managing director in 1991, pioneered the rehabilitation of the watershed.

“I’d like to say that the vision for this park came because of the watershed,” Lopez said in an old footage from the foundation.

“We had 1,200 hectares denuded and now we have a thousand hectares planted. We want to finish… reforest all of La Mesa.”

Plant, Vegetation, Path
FOREST. A trail inside the La Mesa Nature Reserve as shown in this photo taken in January 2024. Contributed photo

In 2022, AFI reported the rehabilitation of a total of 267.5 hectares of forest covering 107,000 native trees, and 452 hectares of young saplings maintained the past three years.

Thousands of volunteers have participated in tree-planting activities in the watershed.

In the same year, the foundation recorded 118,152 visitors in the ecopark and 13,561 visitors in the nature reserve.

AFI, founded by the late ABS-CBN chief Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr., was established in 1989. Its other programs and campaigns include Bantay Bata 163, Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig, and Pantawid ng Pag-ibig. – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.