MANILA – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday launched the 3rd Gawad Taga-Ilog: Search for the Most Improved Estero (waterway) in Metro Manila.

The search is a region-wide competition recognizing efforts of local government units (LGUs) in the National Capital Region (NCR) in keeping their waterways clean and trash-free, and actively participating in the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

At a press conference, DENR-NCR Regional Executive Director Jacqueline Caancan said this November, the agency will be celebrating three environmental events such as National Environmental Awareness and Education Month, Clean Air Month, and National Climate Change Consciousness Week.

“All these three events are geared towards the consciousness on the importance of the environment and natural resources for sustainable growth and development of the country,” Caancan said.

“We are focused on the immediate concern of the cleanup and rehabilitation of Manila Bay. Because of the population, rapid growth and development, it has a real impact on the environment,” she added.

Caancan said the DENR hopes to restore Manila Bay, popular among promenaders for its picturesque sunset view, to its former glory, if not completely rehabilitate it.

In 2019, the DENR launched the cleanup drive dubbed as the “Battle for Manila Bay” and, in line with that, conceptualized the search for the most improved esteros the following year.

“Now we are launching the 3rd Gawad Taga-Ilog dubbed as 'GTI 3.0' which steadily gained the support and participation of the local government units in Metro Manila,” Caancan said.

“The media can help to inform as many barangays in Metro Manila on our common shared responsibility not only for the DENR, for the government, the community, but also with the local government units. Ang pinakamahalaga po ang ating komunidad, especially those in the waterways (The most important is our community, especially those in the waterways),” Caancan said.

Caancan said the DENR believes the key to resolving the environmental issues of Metro Manila is the cleanup and rehabilitation of Manila Bay, through the help of local government units.

“For this purpose, we will not only continue to provide policy and technical support to local governments. We also commit to working closely with our local leaders, including those at the grassroots in addressing other related issues,” she added.

She stressed the importance of protecting our environment “sapagkat ikaw, ako, tayo ang kalikasan (Because you, me, we are the environment).”

The judging criteria in the “Gawad Taga-Ilog” are the following: solid waste management – 25 percent, liquid waste management – 15 percent, informal settler families and illegal structures management – 15 percent, habitat and resources management – 20 percent, and sustainability and partnership management – 25 percent.

The search will run from November 2022 until February 2023.

The proposed awards date is March 22, 2023 in time for the celebration of “World Water Day/Week”. (PNA)