The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) has released the updated guidelines and criteria for judging for Gawad Taga-Ilog (GTI): Search for the Most Improved Estero in Metro Manila, an annual environmental competition among local government units (LGUs) in NCR.

Now in its fourth year, GTI will have an upgrade from new methodology and coverage to indicators. Its key message is “Transforming Communities through the Gawad Taga-Ilog program” which will focus on the three (3) concepts of sustainability—economic, enhanced environment, and social.

Transforming communities through sustained solutions and actions addressing the pressing challenges of the waterway and environment, in general. Sustainability is a dedication to a way of life that protects the environment, society, and economy. It should not only be a notion but embracing, practicing, and engaging with a diverse array of best practices in environmental conservation and fostering innovative measures through collaborative efforts.

During the launch of GTI 4.0 held in Quezon City last November 16, the DENR-NCR announced the guidelines and criteria for judging as it urged barangays in all 16 cities and one municipality of Metro Manila to nominate their chosen estero.

Under the guidelines, there will be two categories—Category A is the typical search for the most improved estero in Metro Manila. The battle of new entrants and non-winners from previous GTIs. Target to consist of 17 waterways in total and limited to only 1 nominated estero per LGU. Category B, on the other hand, is the battle of the winners #BattleForSustainability. All winners from the past GTIs will have their battle once again, dubbed the battle for sustainability. This category will consist of 14 Esteros in total.

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. This set of criteria was based on the four clusters stated in the Operational Plan for Manila Bay Coastal Strategy.

For Category A, the weights of each criterion and indicators used from the past GTIs will be the same. Whereas for Category B there will be changes in the weights of each criterion and indicators+++ on economic, enhanced environmental, and social will be introduced and used.

For solid waste management, Category A is 25% and Category B is 20%; for liquid waste management, Category A is 15% and Category B is 20%.; for informal settler families and illegal structures management, both categories are 15%; for habitat and resources management, both 20%; and for the sustainability and partnership management, also both categories are 25%.

All nominated esteros will go through a screening process, field validation, and deliberation to be conducted by the DENR National Capital Region with its four Metropolitan Environment Offices and the GTI 4.0 competent, reputable, and experienced board of judges

DENR-NCR Regional Executive Director Jacqueline A. Caancan expressed her vision for GTI 4.0. "We will be taking this initiative to the next level as GTI 4.0 aims to ensure the sustainability of the progress achieved in previous years. As the Manila Bay, our rivers, esteros, and other waterways are interconnected, it is vital to possess the ability to maintain and support the ongoing best practices and innovative solutions and actions, to improve the condition of our waterways, ultimately contributing to the rehabilitation of Manila Bay,” she said.

GTI 4.0 will run from November 2023 in line with the celebration of National Environmental Awareness Month up to February 2024. The awarding ceremony will take place on 22 March 2024 coinciding with the celebration of World Water Day.