The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, pleaded with the millions of devotees who are expected to attend the Eucharistic celebrations and the massive procession of the greatly revered image to take the lead in keeping the streets litter-free.
The feast, now on its 403rd year, will see the Black Nazarene being brought to the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta this Friday for an overnight vigil. A procession of the gilded carriage bearing the icon will commence from there on Saturday morning to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.
“We hope that the large-scale breach of R.A. 9003 that tainted the celebration last year will not happen again. Our pious devotion to the Black Nazarene merits no less than a clean and safe fiesta for all,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the first law signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she took over the presidency, explicitly bans littering, an offense punishable by a fine of 300 to 1,000 pesos or 1 to 15-day community service or both.
Citing information from Manila’s Department of Public Service, the EcoWaste Coalition reported that in 2009 some 19 trucks were required to clear affected streets, especially in Quiapo, of fiesta trash estimated at 124 tons.
“The wastefulness of the Quiapo fiesta dishonors the Black Nazarene to whom many Filipinos come begging for deliverance and healing, especially from poverty and ailments that could have been aggravated by unhealthy environment,” Calonzo said.
“We trust that the clergy and the laity, led by the Hijos del Señor Nazareno, will exercise responsible stewardship over the environment as the great feast is observed,” he added.
The most littered items during the 2009 feast that were mostly left lying in street gutters and corners were bamboo skewers, cigarette butts, plastic bottles and drinking cups, plastic bags, Styrofoam containers and food leftovers.
To keep the Quiapo fiesta litter-free, the EcoWaste Coalition is appealing to every chapter of Hijos del Señor Nazareno to assign a person or team to promote and ensure devotees’ cooperation for an eco-friendly devotion.
The EcoWaste Coalition is further appealing to the office of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim to deploy more waste and sanitation workers along the processional route and also to provide more portable toilets for the convenience of the devotees and other fiesta visitors.
Here is the list of “green tips” that the EcoWaste Coalition has developed to assist Black Nazarene devotees in fulfilling and strengthening their religious vows with the well-being of Mother Earth in mind:
1. Refrain from smoking, or better still quit for keeps, to avoid butt litter and serious tobacco-related diseases that kill 10 Filipinos every hour. You also protect other people from getting sick by not exposing them to toxins from secondhand smoke.
2. If you smoke, please don’t toss butts on the ground. Cigarette filters are non-biodegradable and they contain toxic chemicals that can leach into the environment.
3. If you chew gum, do put it in a bin after you’re done with it. If there is no bin close by, put the spent chewing gum back into the wrapper and wait until you see a bin. Don’t let barefoot devotees step on your chewing gum waste.
4. Please don’t spit on walls, sidewalks and streets. Spitting in public presents a serious health risk, especially to children who are more prone to disease-causing germs and bacteria.
5. Please do not urinate on the street. Urinating in public is unhygienic and poses social, health and environmental problems.
6. Return used food and beverage containers to the vendors and do not litter them anywhere. The plastic bag for the thirst-quenching “palamig,” for example, can clog the storm drains and later cause flooding in Quiapo.
7. Give back to the vendors used bamboo skewers for barbecue, grilled corn-on-the-cob, fried banana, fishball and kikiam as devotees can accidentally step on thoughtlessly thrown sticks and cause foot injuries.
8. Put your discards into the designated bins. Quiapo (and the whole country for that matter) is NOT a dumpsite. Let us keep the shrine of the Black Nazarene, including the route of the procession, litter-free.
9. If you are planning to bring home something for the kids, reduce plastic waste by bringing a reusable carry bag with you for the fruits, “kakanin” and other “pasalubong” that are plentiful in Quiapo.