EcoWaste Laments the Trashing of Streets as an Unholy Act of Penance (Group Commends Street Sweepers and Waste Recyclers for Picking Up after the Pilgrims)

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental
watchdog, minced no words to criticize the widespread littering that again
marred the annual Alay-Lakad to Antipolo City on Maundy Thursday.
“The massive littering of major streets by
pilgrims who were supposed to fulfill an act of penance is unholy, unkind and
unacceptable,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Why dirty the environment with garbage
as we beg for forgiveness for our sins and renew our faith?  Why spoil the air with cigarette smoke as we
seek reconciliation with the Lord,” she asked.

“We respect our people’s freedom of
belief and religion, but it should never be at the expense of the public health
and the environment,” she pointed out.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrollers
lamented seeing major thoroughfares leading to Antipolo City, particularly
Ortigas Avenue Extension from Pasig City, littered with various trash.

“Garbage was most visible in areas where
people congregate and rest such as the environs of churches, the areas
surrounding the Stations of the Cross, as well as in street junctions, parking
lots and open spaces in front of shopping malls,” the Basura Patrollers said.

Like in previous Alay-Lakad activities,
the Basura Patrollers spotted cigarette butts, plastic bags, food packaging,
polystyrene coffee cups, paper noodle bowls, “suman” wrappers, and soiled
newspapers everywhere, “as if it was a feast day for disposables and litterbugs.”  

As if the trashing of the streets was
not enough, litterbugs shamelessly left a carpet of used newspapers and other
discards on the ground of the Antipolo Cathedral and the adjacent Dimasalang
Park despite constant reminder from the Oplan Semana  Santa Command Post for the public to dispose
of their trash in proper receptacles, the Basura Patrollers said.

A biblical reminder from 1 Thessalonians 4:7, which says “for God has not
called us to uncleanness, but in holiness,” was repeatedly broadcast from the
public address system to encourage the throngs of pilgrims to keep the area
clean, but to little avail.

It is some consolation to note, the
EcoWaste Coalition said, that dozens of informal waste recyclers were quick to
see the livelihood opportunity in such a mammoth event as they collected paper
and plastic recyclables and thus reducing the volume of discards to be hauled
and sent to the landfill by the city’s waste personnel.

The group likewise commended the hundreds of street sweepers assigned by the
city governments of Antipolo and Pasig and the municipal governments of Cainta
and Taytay for the round-the-clock cleanup efforts along the penitential route.

“The garbage situation would have been far worse if not for the service
rendered by the street sweepers and the waste recyclers who picked up trash by
hand during and after the penitential walk,” Lucero said.

R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste
Management Act, prohibits and penalizes acts that could put the public health
and the environment at risk, particularly the littering, dumping and burning of

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.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition called the attention of the public to avoid
some souvenir items sold in Antipolo City that may pose risk to human health
for containing excessive amounts of lead, a potent neurotoxin.

The souvenir products were purchased for P130 to P15 each from street vendors
on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence screening device for toxic metals, the group
detected lead up to 5,984 parts per million (ppm), way above the regulatory
limit of 90 ppm for lead in paints, in some key chains and religious figures
that are coated with paint.

An angel candle holder had 5,984 ppm of lead, while a statue of the Holy Child
and a statue of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (also known as the Virgin
of Antipolo) had 4,029 ppm and 1,794 ppm of lead, respectively.

A “suman” key chain had 5,409 ppm of lead, a pencil key chain had 4,282 and a
cashew key chain had 2,017 ppm of lead.

“We hope that our discovery of toxic
lead in some of Antipolo’s favorite mementos would encourage souvenir makers to
stop the use of lead paint for consumer health and safety,” Lucero said.