EcoWaste Coalition Mourns Massive Breach of RA 9003 at Antipolo Penitential Walk (Hails Informal Recyclers for Cutting Waste Volume Sent for Disposal)

An environmental group campaigning for a “litter-free Pilipinas” decried the “massive breach” of the country’s waste law during the penitential walk to Antipolo City that began on Maundy Thursday.

“By sunrise of Good Friday, the ugly mess left by the tens of thousands of mainly youth pilgrims came to a full view,” lamented Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patroller.

“The unbridled littering during the ‘Alay-Lakad’ has blighted what was supposed to be an act of atonement for wrongs committed or an avowal of faith and obedience to Christ the Redeemer,” he said.

“What happened was exactly an ‘Alay-Kalat’ to the max: a massive breach of R.A. 9003 as if littering was OK and devotees were exempted from observing the law that clearly forbids and penalizes littering,” he observed.

R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits several acts that could endanger public health and sanitation and the environment, including the littering, dumping and burning of garbage.

Litterbugs can be penalized with a fine of P300 to P1,000, compelled to render community service at the local government unit (LGU) where the act was committed or be required to pay the fine as well as perform community service.

“LGUs would have made a killing in collected fines if only R.A. 9003 and its parallel anti-littering ordinances were duly enforced,” Calonzo said.

“LGUs would have enlisted thousands of warm bodies to help with community cleanup activities such as the removal of garbage in clogged canals and esteros if litterbugs were not let off the hook ,” he also said.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted the rampant disposal of trash along the Alay-Lakad routes, particularly in Ortigas Avenue Extension, Sumulong Highway and in M.L. Quezon St. and P. Oliveros St. and adjoining streets in Antipolo City.

Cigarette butts, food packaging materials, plastic bags, cups and straws, and soiled papers were among the most littered items, especially in places where people tend to gather such as in front of Ever Gotesco Ortigas Complex in Pasig City, Seven-11 in Cainta junction, Cainta, Rizal, Tikling junction in Taytay, Rizal and in Antipolo proper itself.

For example, the Antipolo Cathedral and the adjacent Dimasalang Park were littered with old newspapers, corrugated boxes and rice sacks used as beddings by exhausted devotees who simply abandoned on site the materials they slept on.

“While the city has imposed a ban on plastic bags and styrofoam containers, we found plenty of these problematic discards combined with “taho” plastic cups, “suman” palm leaf wrappers, junk food packets and fruit peelings,” Calonzo noted.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition commended the dozens of waste pickers who retrieved the recyclable discards left by the devotees.

“We laud them for demonstrating their precious role in resource conservation and recovery through recycling,” Calonzo said.

“Their environmental service has reduced the volume of trash sent to Antipolo City’s garbage transfer station in Barangay Padilla and then dumped at a disposal facility in Barangay Boso-Boso,” he added.

The collected newspapers, according to the waste pickers, will be sold for P5 per kilo, the corrugated boxes for P6 per kilo and the polyethylene (PET) plastic bottles for P15-30 per kilo.

“We hope pilgrims to Antipolo will be more environmentally responsible and caring next time as they fulfill their spiritual vows. There simply is no excuse for littering,” Calonzo stated.