“Do not turn the cemeteries into burial grounds for garbage” (Politicos Urged Not to ‘Used’ the Dead for Political Gains)

Do not turn the cemeteries into burial grounds for garbage.

This is the earnest plea of an environmental watchdog in anticipation of the huge throng of visitors who will be inundating cemeteries soon to visit the graves of their dearly departed ones.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate of waste prevention and reduction, asked Filipinos from all walks of life to perform the time-honored tradition of paying homage to the dead without turning the cemeteries into dumpsites for trash.

“We surely can express our reverence and gratitude for our departed relatives and friends sans unashamed littering and dumping. The festive occasion is not an excuse for litterbugs to dirty and defile the cemeteries and convert them from burial to dumping grounds,” said Romy Hidalgo, Board member of the EcoWaste Coalition, and newly-appointed NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

“Be responsible enough not to leave any trash behind the cemetery, a hallowed ground deserving our utmost respect. Please refrain from being a hardhearted Zombasura,” pleaded Hidalgo.

Zombasura is an EcoWaste Coalition’s wordplay combining “zombie” and “basura”to mortify unfeeling litterbugs who pollute cemeteries with their messy habits of dropping litter, piling trash or burning garbage.

“Let’s not forget the ‘bagsik ng habagat” (the southwest monsoon’s fury) last August that pounded and submerged Metro Manila and nearby provinces in floods,” said Froilan Grate, President of the Mother Earth Foundation and one of the framers of the Zero Waste Pilipinas movement.

Indiscriminate waste disposal aggravated the massive flooding that killed almost 100 people and caused enormous damage to agriculture and infrastructure.

“While it is already obvious, we still want to remind everyone that what we throw away will return to haunt us like the infamous post-habagat trashing of the Manila Bay esplanade. That is the law of karma,” Grate emphasized.

The southwest monsoon washed up tons of mixed trash toward Roxas Boulevard, from the Philippine Yacht to the US Embassy, instantaneously turning the landmark into a virtual dumpsite.

Personnel from the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Manila City Government spent weeks to clear the area of over 300 truckloads of garbage.

For a waste-free observance of Undas, the EcoWaste Coalition has encouraged the government to strictly enforce Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which prohibits and penalizes littering, among other unlawful acts.

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.

The EcoWaste Coalition further appealed to politicians, especially those running for the 2013 mid-term elections, not to take advantage of Undas for premature campaigning activities.

“We urge well-meaning politicos not to drown the cemeteries and their environs with banners that, by design or not, are meant to publicize their names with the electorate,” Hidalgo stated.

“In lieu of self-patronizing banners, we ask them to help cemetery administrators and surrounding barangays to ensure sufficient waste and sanitation services before, during and after Undas,” proposed Hidalgo.

For instance, politicians may pool their resources together for the provision of the following essential services:

segregated waste bins
potable water
clean toilets

first aid clinics

Politicians may also pay for the extra personnel needed such as “litter police” and streetsweepers in cemeteries and neighboring barangays.

“Let it not be said that the candidates ‘used’ the dead to amass political gains,” Hidalgo said.