The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is stepping up its collaboration with local government units (LGUs) and communities in maintaining clean and trash-free esteros and rivers in the National Capital Region (NCR) through the annual region-wide search for the most improved waterways.
Now on its third year, the Gawad Taga-Ilog (GTI): Search for the Most Improved Estero seeks to recognize the most improved esteros or waterways in Metro Manila and honor their respective barangays for the efforts. 
GTI is part of the initiatives of the DENR in tapping LGUs and communities into the greater goal of rehabilitating Manila Bay.
During the launch of GTI 3.0 in Quezon City last November 15, OIC Assistant Secretary for Field Operations - Luzon and Visayas Gilbert C. Gonzales said that although significant accomplishments were achieved ever since the 2019 launch for the Battle for Manila Bay, challenges in domestic sewage remained.
 “As much as we want to improve the water quality in Manila Bay, it has to start from the source. Collaboration, especially with the LGUs, is necessary so we can work together and improve the water quality of Manila Bay,” said Gonzales.
For the GTI contest, LGUs will nominate their chosen estero or waterway within their jurisdiction. Nominees will be judged according to the LGUs’ management of their solid and liquid waste, informal settler families and illegal structures, habitat and resources, and sustainability and partnership.
The search will run from November 2022 to February 2023 and awarding will be in March 2023, to coincide with World Water Day.
Recognizing the exemplary accomplishments of some LGUs in the past years, Gonzales said that GTI is DENR’s “simple way of thanking them for helping the agency improve the conditions of our environment and making communities more livable and safer.”
GTI also aims to encourage Metro Manila residents to adopt a sense of ownership and a positive mindset towards their responsibility to maintain clean waterways.
Apart from GTI, sustainable efforts of the DENR in supporting LGUs and communities include Communication, Education, and Public Awareness (CEPA) activities for the communities and the Dalaw Turo program for the youth.
Meanwhile, DENR-NCR Regional Executive Director Jacqueline A. Caancan announced that the GTI will include a new category this year called Hall of Fame—or “winner among the winners” — where the DENR-NCR will choose among the past winners and see if cleanliness were sustained and maintained by the respective barangays.
Caancan said that all barangays in Metro Manila are automatically qualified to join the GTI.
She emphasized that the cleanup and rehabilitation of Manila Bay and its tributaries lie on the empowerment and autonomy of local governments.  
For this purpose, Caancan said the DENR-NCR will continue not only in providing policy and technical support to LGUs but also in institutionalizing activities that formally recognize their efforts. ###