EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Community “Bayanihan” to Clear Streets of Storm Debris and Trash

San Mateo, Rizal – The EcoWaste Coalition today pushed for community “bayanihan” as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered Saturday the cleanup of Metro Manila streets in 72 hours of trash left by tropical storm “Ondoy.”

“Communal unity in the tradition of ‘bayanihan’ is necessary to achieve our shared goal of making our communities safe from stinking garbage that can harm the public health, especially the children who are most at risk to flood-related diseases,” said Ofelia Panganiban of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the call as it joined hands with Buklod Tao (a local group) in a cleanup drive in Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal to mark the feast day of St. Francis of Asisi, the well-loved patron saint of animals and the environment.

Among those who joined the cleanup were members of the Add Up Volunteers, Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice, EARTH UST, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation, and the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society.

“The tons of mixed trash piled up in the streets and water ways are ticking time bombs that can further worsen the hygiene and sanitation in communities that are striving to recover from the epic flood,” she warned.

“Given the enormity of the problem, we urge the government, the church, the academe and the civil society to join forces and speed up the clearing of disaster debris and waste in affected areas,” Panganiban emphasized.

“To reduce the volume of trash that has to be disposed, we urge everyone to retrieve, repair, reuse and recycle and to think twice before throwing anything to the bin,” she added.

Last Friday, members of the EcoWaste Coalition visited Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City and saw huge heaps of mixed garbage in the streets that instantly turned the thickly populated neighborhood into a virtual “Payatas” (referring to the infamous dumpsite in the city).

“The mini-dumps by the streets and riverbanks can become havens for flies, mosquitoes, rodents and other pests that can cause an outbreak of cholera, dengue and diarrhea. Also, the stinking garbage can aggravate the psychological trauma of the survivors, particularly the children,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Accompanied by members of Akbayan and the Malayang Tinig ng mga Kababaihan sa Komunidad, the environmental advocates witnessed the unhealthy and dangerous living condition of residents following the destructive flood.

“We’re saddened to see the wide range of resources scattered in the mini-dumps, including flood-damaged books, clothes, sofa, appliances and sacks of rice,” Panaligan added.

To assist community members in the cleanup efforts, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the Armed Forces of the Philippines to dispatch more active personnel as well as reservists to assist in the debris and waste removal in affected communities.

The group also proposed the deployment of college students, particularly those enrolled in military, social work, community development and environmental courses to pitch in and join the
community cleanup.