Press Releases

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.

For Earth Hour this year, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje is encouraging the public to switch off not only their lights but also other non-essential electrical appliances to “relieve Planet Earth and its inhabitants of the destructive build-up of carbon stress.”

Earth Hour 2011 will be observed on Saturday, March 26, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (local time). People, businesses and communities from across the globe are urged to turn off their lights for one hour to send a message on taking action against global warming. For the past two years, the Philippines recorded the most number of participating towns and cities.

More than an opportunity to create another record-breaking feat, however, Paje is calling on Filipinos to participate and reduce their carbon footprint by decreasing their electrical consumption for an hour, thus lessening emissions generated from carbon dioxide and fossil fuel, which greatly contribute to climate change.

Beyond the hour-long “sacrifice” of switching off power, the DENR chief is also urging the Filipinos to mitigate the further effects of climate change by eliminating wasteful or inefficient consumption of electricity, using cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels, and incorporating clean development mechanisms for greener products and services.

“The lifestyle of ecological responsibility and discipline that Earth Hour promotes deserves habitual and universal application, and we strongly urge everyone to adopt and practice such environmental citizenship,” he said.

Paje has issued a memorandum directing all lights in all DENR offices and their vicinities nationwide are switched off in support to Earth Hour. He likewise called on all local government units, educational institutions, commercial establishments, outdoor advertisers, civic groups and households to do the same.
“Let us not wait for time to run out, or for global warming to become irreversible. The greater the darkness we produce on Earth Hour, the brighter our tomorrow will be,” he said.

Earth Hour is considered one of the largest mass participation for the Earth. It was organized by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, where 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make a stand against climate change. The number of participating communities has steadily risen from 35 countries in 2008, to 88 countries in 2009, and 128 in 2010.

The Philippines topped last year’s participation with 15 million Filipinos in 1,076 towns and cities voluntarily plunged into darkness for Earth Hour.

It’s the schools’ turn to get down and dirty as they showcase their freshest ideas and best practices in reusing, reducing, and recycling their waste.

Three government agencies and a non-government environmental network have once again joined hands to recognize students’ best initiatives in solid waste management with the forging of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to launch the Zero Basura Olympics (ZBO) for Academic Division.

Formally sealing the partnership recently were the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and Earth Day Network Philippines.

The ZBO version for schools is an offshoot of previous ZBO recognizing exemplary practices of local government units and businesses in implementing the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. It will be carried out next school year 2011-2012. Nominees will be categorized in three, representing elementary, secondary and tertiary levels. There will be three winners per category. The final mechanics will be announced later.

DENR Assistant Secretary Analiza Teh, representing Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, said the ZBO will seek to encourage students to be more innovative in promoting a cleaner environment. “Schools are cradles for values formation, and we cannot overstate their importance in fostering environmental principles in our youth. They will thus provide the best channels to implement the principles of ecological solid waste management,” she said.

On her part, EDNP chair and former DENR Secretary Elisea Gozun appreciated the opportunity to once again partner with the government in promoting environmental citizenship. “The ZBO will help inculcate in our youth the idea of considering every day as Earth Day,” she said.

Under the MOA, the EDNP will act as the project manager and national secretariat coordinator for the ZBO. The DepEd and CHED will disseminate its mechanics to all academic institutions and attached agencies, including media promotions. The CHED will also provide funding assistance to any champion who will submit an innovative Action Grant Proposal.

Meanwhile, the DENR will serve as secretariat of the Philippine Association of Tertiary Level Educational Institutions in Environmental Protection and Management (PATLEPAM) to get the support from member schools, as well as assist in information dissemination.

Representatives from the DENR, DepEd and CHED will also form a Regional Validation Committee which will review and shortlist qualifiers; conduct site visits; evaluate and finalize results based on criteria; and declare the respective winners. The committee may also select “With Very High Honors” awardees, or nominate one best entry per category to the Secretariat.

The ZBO will actually boost the academic sector’s implementation of two landmark environmental laws: RA 9003, and RA 9512 or the Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008. Prior to the enactment of RA 9003, the DepEd had already launched its own “War on Waste” program to promote the practice of reusing, reducing, and recycling waste.

The ZBO will also complement the on-going 2011 National Search for Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Schools, which the DENR launched in September last year and whose awarding will be in November 2011.

 What better location to drum up awareness and advocacy regarding the state of the country’s rivers than on the Philippines’ most famous yet most abused and neglected river – Pasig River.

Pasig_River_fluvial-webThis was foremost in the minds of the more than 300 representatives from both public and private sectors who gamely boarded 35 boats Tuesday (March 15) to take part in the 18th Annual Pasig River Fluvial Parade. The journey set off at the Plaza Mexico Pasig River ferry service station in Intramuros, Manila and ended with a short program at the Makati Garden Park in Guadalupe, Makati City.

The parade was co-organized by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its River Basin Control Office (RBCO), and the Sagip Ilog Pilipinas Movement (SIPM), formerly known as the Sagip Pasig Movement. Usually held in April to commemorate Earth Day, the parade was held earlier this year in observance of the International Day of Action for Rivers (March 14), as well as part of a series of activities commemorating World Water Day on March 22.

The SIPM has been working closely with the National Solid Waste Management Commission and the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), which are both attached agencies of the DENR, in reducing pollution along the Pasig River primarily through the implementation of Republic Act 9003 or Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje had earlier cited the importance of the event in advocating for a cleaner Pasig River. “The Pasig River plays a very important role in the lives of Filipinos in Metro Manila and its environs, commercially and environmentally speaking. Ideally, we should be able to drink from, and bathe in, this river, yet we have turned it into one big septic tank,” he said.

He then lauded the SIPM for co-organizing the annual fluvial parade, especially in the adoption of this year’s theme “Save Philippine Rivers”, and as he expressed hope that the activity would be replicated in other rivers in the country.

During the short program in Makati City, RBCO Director Vicente Tuddao welcomed the chance to work with SIPM, calling it a “bold step” for all rivers and river basins in the country. “The country has 421 principal rivers and thousands of smaller waterways, including creeks and esteros. The number one problem with water is not availability, but pollution, and we need to implement the provisions of the Clean Water Act and penalize those who pollute the water,” he said.

In line with this, the SIPM and DENR launched the search for the first recipient of the Gawad Macli-ing Dulag Award for River Initiative, Single and Organizational Categories, recognizing exemplary acts of individuals or groups in the protection and rehabilitation of rivers.
SIPM Executive Director Myrna Jimenez said that the search for nominees will open in June, to be validated in September in time for the awarding during next year’s fluvial parade. “We will recognize acts in protecting any of the priority rivers identified by the DENR,” she said.

The DENR and the SIPM were joined for the fluvial parade by representatives from government agencies such as the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority led by General Manager Corazon Jimenez, representatives from the Office of the President and the National Commission for Culture and Arts; different Sangguniang Kabataan officials and barangay units along the Pasig River such as Pateros, San Juan, Paco, Makati and Quezon City; students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines; and sponsors Unilever Philippines and Jollibee.

 More than a hundred participants representing water stakeholders from both public and private sectors attended the one-day National Forum on the State of Rivers in the Philippines held Monday (March 14, 2011) at the Sulo Riviera Hotel in Quezon City.

Organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the forum highlighted the national celebration of March 14 as the International Day of |Action for Rivers, with the local theme: “Save Philippine Rivers”. It also served as a venue for consultation with the various stakeholders on the protection, rehabilitation, conservation and governance of the country’s rivers and river basins.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje called the event “timely” in light of the devastating earthquake which hit Japan recently, and which brought to fore problems in water supply for badly hit areas.

In his keynote speech, Paje lamented the people’s low regard in managing the country’s water resources. “At any given time, the country has 146 billion cubic meters of water available, yet we are treating it like a free resource… we are throwing water away by the second, and we are not managing it properly,” Paje said.

Paje also underscored that despite the abundance of water in the Philippines, not much of it is available for public consumption because of problems in “catching” and “keeping” the water such as through water impounding systems; lack of infrastructure, especially for irrigation; and pollution of water bodies.

Paje said addressing such issues would enable the country “to release water at the proper time and proper place, when we need it,” especially during disasters and calamities, as he called on the people to help protect the country’s rivers and river basins, which are considered the “bloodstream of society” supporting life of communities surrounding them.

A river basin is a portion of land that drains to a large river with an estuary or ocean as a final destination. The country has 421 principal river basins, with 20 major river basins having a drainage area of more than 1,000 square kilometers. Yet, a rapidly growing population resulting in increased economic activity and water pollution are putting stress on water resources, prompting the DENR to call for action amid a threat of scarcity of freshwater.

The DENR is initiating or collaborating with other government agencies a line-up of events to bring more attention to the need for sustainable water management. These include the Pasig River Fluvial Parade in Manila (March 15); Walkthrough and Boat Ride at Estero de Paco and Estero de San Miguel in Manila (March 16); Water Trail in Quezon City to be led by water concessionaires (March 21); Filipinos Walk for Watert, which is a local version of the Worldwide Walk for Water, and Executive-Legislative Dialogue on Water with President Aquino at SM Mall of Asia, and Symposium on Best Practices on Water at Micro Tel near SM-MOA, all on March 22 in celebration of World Water Day; Water Quality Management Area Forum at Richmond Hotel, Quezon City (March 24); and river cleanup of Estero dela Reina/Tullahan in Gagalangin, Tondo (March 25).

World Water Day is celebrated every March 22. This year’s theme is “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge”, which aims to spotlight and encourage governments, organizations, communities and individuals to actively engage in addressing challenges of water management in urban areas.