The nation’s celebration of World Water Day (WWD) today (March 22) will see the country’s chief executive himself putting a face to the government’s priority of providing accessible and clean water for every Filipino.

The President is expected to deliver his keynote message on World Water Day at the Music Hall of the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) in Pasay City. The event is organized by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its River Basin Control Office (RBCO), along with partners from other national government agencies, such as the National Economic Development Authority, the Departments of Interior and Local Government, Agriculture, Education, the Laguna Lake Development Authority, the Metro Manila Development Authority; non-government organizations and the private sectors like the Sagip Ilog Pilipinas Movement, Philippine Society for Biosystems and Agricultural Engineers, SM Corp., Smart Telecommunications, and many more.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje says that this year’s local theme, “Malinis na Katubigan para sa maunlad na pamayanan”, which is culled from the global theme, “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge”, well describes government’s two-fold priority of clean water especially in urban areas and providing accessible water services to the poor. “This is to assure the public that the government is heeding Filipinos’ clamor for safe, clean water, and that we are actually committed and actively engaged in addressing the challenges facing us,” he said.

The celebration will start off with a “Filipinos Walk for Water,” where all participants will walk from the SM-MOA globe to the Seaside Boulevard before entering the Music Hall area. This will be followed by a ceremony wherein those carrying jars of water will pour the water into a larger container to symbolize water conservation efforts.

During the main program, selected school children will have the opportunity to read water stories with the President as a culmination of the “Ripples of Hope Postcard Campaign”. Other children from Regions 5 (Bicol) and 10 (Northern Mindanao) will also be able to participate in the reading via remote broadcast sessions.

RBCO Director Vicente Tuddao said that the campaign saw half a million postcards distributed to local stakeholders, mostly children, where they could write their personal stories and which were then mailed to key personalities including Pres. Aquino. “The postcard reading will thus dramatize the presentation of water concerns by ordinary citizens to their government leaders,” he said.

Another highlight of the program is the reading and turnover of the “Declaration of Commitment and Policy Action on Water and Sanitation” to the government. This declaration is one of the outputs of a technical workshop held on March 17 at the House of Representatives organized by the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance, the National Economic and Development Authority, the National Water Resources Board, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Other activities that the DENR has lined up to bring more attention to the need for sustainable water management include the Pasig River Fluvial Parade (March 15); Walkthrough and Boat Ride at Estero de Paco and Estero de San Miguel in Manila (March 16); Water Trail in Quezon City (March 21); Symposium on Best Practices on Water at Microtel near SM MOA (March 22); Water Quality Management Area Forum at Richmonde Hotel in Quezon City (March 24); and the cleanup of Estero dela Reina/Tullahan in Gagalangin, Tondo (March 25).

Paje says the activities slated for WWD 2011 are part of strategies to achieve the country’s targets under the millennium development goals (MDGs). “Government is keen on pursuing our MDGs in providing water services to our poor and reducing by half the number of people who have no such access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation,” he said.

The DENR chief added that the enactment of laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act has allowed government to “make strides” in the attainment of the MDGs. He maintained, however, that various issues need to be addressed to ensure the poor’s access to safe, clean water. “We need to improve the distribution and utilization of our water resources with more water impounding systems, increased infrastructure for irrigation, and less water pollution,” he said.