Waste Pickers Unite For Rights, Gain Support From Diverse Sectors

Cebu City.  A significant step towards on-going national
initiatives of the informal waste sector to gain recognition and legitimization
as decent workers, as well as their development and integration into the solid
waste management system, has gained momentum as over 50 individuals from several
local community groups and NGOs from Cebu City, Mandaue City and Bacolod City took
part in an awareness-raising training and consultation aimed at raising occupational
consciousness regarding waste pickers’ rights.
EcoWaste Coalition, in partnership with local groups Freedom from Debt
Coalition (FDC), Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), and the University of
Cebu – Banilad, has organized a two-day regional training workshop for waste
pickers at the University of Cebu, Banilad Campus in Cebu City.
The two-day
activity, which culminates today, also gained the support of Cebu City Councilor
Nida Cabrera, Chairperson of the City Council Committee on Environment, as well
as Engr. Ricardo Mendoza, Director of the Mandaue City Solid Waste Management
to the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), waste pickers are either “individuals
working and rummaging through garbage on dumps, informal private collectors
selling recyclables, or organized sorters tied with unions, cooperatives and
workshop aims to develop a common understanding about the present solid waste
management (SWM) systems, discuss the current and emerging threats of such
systems that tend to exclude waste pickers, and identify solutions and legal
provisions that will allow the mandatory inclusion of waste pickers into the
existing SWM models,” said PEJC
Coordinator Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.
2010, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) adopted a National
Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Solid Waste Management via NSWMC
Resolution No. 47 in the hope of integrating waste pickers into the SWM system
by “providing them with a favorable policy environment, skills development and
access to a secured livelihood, employment and social services.”
Ramos explained that the NSWMC Framework Plan has been carried out successfully
in a few areas, but still needs strict implementation in many parts of the
country, “especially in places where localities are outsourcing waste
collection and segregation to private entities, thereby threatening the jobs of
waste pickers whose bread and butter includes collection, segregation and
retail of recyclable discards.”
the midst of several plans to adopt “green technologies” such as
waste-to-energy plants, the government undermines the real eco-friendly
technology – comprehensive recycling with social justice and labor rights
light of continually rising unemployment, the government should promote programs
and legislations that will uplift working conditions of waste pickers and
sustain their livelihood in the recycling industry as opposed to advocating
supposed “green technology” projects and policies that expel large number of
workers,” Atty. Ramos added.
for decades now, Filipino waste pickers still fight for a dignified livelihood
as they struggle for their occupational rights to be recognized and their
working conditions to improve; and despite their positive economic, social and
environmental impact to the communities they live in, the government, in
general, still lacks supportive and inclusive policies and laws that will
safeguard waste pickers’ rights and ensure occupational stability and social
order to advance their rights, the marginalized waste pickers need to have one
solid voice that will represent them in local and national policy, regulatory
and collective bargaining bodies.
For his part, Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector
(IWS) Project Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, says that one of the
workshop’s objectives is to “strengthen local waste pickers’ organizations to
assist their individual concerns and facilitate the improvement of their
working conditions, which results to guaranteed earnings and sustained decent
“The workshop allowed participants to share their
stories of growth and development, as well as challenges being encountered
as they make a living from waste. Some of these challenges include secure
access to waste; exposure to health risks and hazards due to presence of toxic,
hazardous and infectious wastes in the disposal facilities; and insufficient
government support. To take on these challenges, the participants need to
have stronger organizations that will pro-actively fight for their social
inclusion and improved economic conditions,” Palacio added.