Despite repeated appeals aired by church, government and civil society leaders, litterbugs chose to mess up the time-honored faith-based event with reckless disposal of their discards.
“We are deeply saddened by the massive display of environmental apathy and disrespect during the feast day as if littering, which is clearly banned under Republic Act 9003, is permissible to do,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
R. A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, considers littering in public places as a prohibited act and violators, upon conviction, shall be fined P300 to P1,000 or required to render community service for one to 15 days, or both.
“It is totally unacceptable to ‘suspend’ the enforcement of the anti-littering law in the name of devotion. In fact, littering does not in any way exalt the Black Nazarene whom many Filipinos implore to grant fervent prayers for good health and other blessings,” Vergara said.
EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrollers who monitored the garbage situation throughout the 22-hour procession of the Black Nazarene from Quirino Grandstand in Luneta to Quiapo Church were appalled by the widespread littering by devotees and non-devotees alike.
The Rizal Park, the streets along the more than six kilometer processional route, the gutters, storm drains and even the MacArthur and Quezon bridges were littered with assorted trash that eco-volunteers and government street sweepers have to clean, the Basura Patrollers reported.
Plastic bags, plastic bottles and cups, plastic drinking straws, polystyrene food and beverage containers, food wrappers, cigarette butts and bamboo skewers were strewn everywhere, they complained.
While completely disappointed with the widespread littering, the EcoWaste Coalition remains hopeful that the situation will improve in future festivities.
“We look forward to the next feast as an occasion for demonstrating our shared environmental responsibility, especially in terms of preventing and reducing our discards,” Vergara added.
“Faith without environmental action is dead,” she said, paraphrasing a popular biblical verse.