To emphasize this year's World Water Day theme, "Water and Wastewater", a top official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday (March 22) underscored the need to focus on the so-called double effects of wastewater during the culminating event of the celebration of Philippine Water Week and World Water Day at the Quezon City Sports Club.

This, even as DENR Undersecretary for Staff Bureaus Demetrio Ignacio, Jr. led the recognition of 14 "water champions" comprised of individuals, organizations, government agencies and local government units (LGUs).

Speaking on behalf of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, who is on official leave, Ignacio said that while wastewater pollutes the environment and causes health problems, it can be beneficial if properly treated and reused.

"Treated wastewater helps clean our environment and re-using them conserves our water supply. They also offer economic advantages," Ignacio said.

Ignacio cited a recent study of the United Nations Environment Program on the economic valuation of wastewater which showed that approximately 330 cubic kilometers of municipal wastewater are generated globally.

He said: "This can irrigate and fertilize millions of hectares of agricultural land that can substantially increase food supply and generate bio-energy for millions of households."

According to Ignacio, the dichotomy of wastewater fits well into the primary objective of the DENR under the new administration, that is, to provide social justice for the people.

"Social justice means that in everything that we do, the communities should always benefit; and anything that we do should not result to the sufferings of our people."

"We should always strive to recycle our wastewater to benefit our communities and we should not allow untreated wastewater that will harm our people," he added.

In light of reports that the Philippines is among the countries most threatened by water scarcity, Ignacio also sought public support and cooperation on water conservation, "Let us not be waster. Let us be savers of water," he said.

Recognized for having gone above and beyond the call of duty to save the country’s most precious natural resource – water, this year's "water champions" are as follows:

Kampeon ng Lawa: Gil Abaquin (Ecoindex), Global Underwater Explorers, and TWG Knife Fish Infestation;

Huwarang Lingkod Tubig: San Jose del Monte Water District and Baliuag Water District in Bulacan province, and Dumaguete Water District in Negros Oriental province;

Kampeon ng Katubigan: Manila Water's Toka-Toka Advocacy Campaign;

Water-wise City Award: Makati City government;

Water Leadership Award: Engr. Arthur Batomalaque, Environmental Management Specialist, City Environment Management Office, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental; and Engr. Thelma Bautista, city environment and natural resources officer of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan;

Huwarang Alagad ng Ilog Pasig: MMDA's Flood Control and Sewerage Management Office;

Water Warrior Award: Albert Toldanes, president of Samahang Tubig Maynilad-Riverview; Engr. Reydennis Gilbas, president of Bicol Water District Association; and Mayor Edwin L. Olivarez and the Parañaque city government for their Urban Gardening Campaign.

Ignacio, together with National Water Resources Board (NWRB) Executive Director Sevillo David, Jr. and Maynilad CEO and President Ramoncito S. Fernandez, handed the awards to the honorees.

The WWD Awards was co-sponsored by the Laguna Lake Development Authority, Local Water Utilities Administration, DENR-National Capital Region, Environmental Management Bureau, and Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.

For his part, NWRB Executive Director David said that the water champions were an inspiration that "we can do so much more for the environment especially for our water resources".

"The awardees gave their best, year round, without expectation of any recognition," David said.

He also announced that the UN General Assembly on December 2016 has declared 2018 to 2028 as the Decade for Water. A global launch will be held next year. ###