Waste Pickers Frame Common Agenda, Fight for Right to Socio-legal Recognition

Davao City.
National initiatives toward continuing clamor for waste pickers to gain
social and legal recognition as respectable workers, as well as their
expansion and integration into the solid waste management system, have
sustained heat as more than 40 people from various waste picker groups,
NGOs, and government agencies from Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City,
General Santos City, and Butuan City attended an awareness-raising
workshop with the purpose of advancing waste pickers’ socio-legal

The EcoWaste Coalition, in cooperation with local-based groups
Kinaiyahan Foundation, Inc.; Interface Development Interventions, Inc.
(IDIS); Philippine Island Kids International Foundation, Inc.; Mamamayan
Ayaw Sa Aerial Spray (MAAS); Soroptimist International of Davao City;
and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) – Davao City,
has organized a two-day regional training workshop for waste pickers at
the UCCP Shalom Center in Davao City.
The two-day activity, which concludes today, has gotten the support of Davao City Councilors Hon. Joselle D. Villafuerte, Chairperson of the City Council Committee on Health, and Hon. Marissa Salvador-Abella, Vice-Chairperson of the City Council Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
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 intends to establish a mutual understanding regarding the
current solid waste management (SWM) systems, analyze the present and
emerging threats of such systems that neglect recyclers, and examine
solutions and legal provisions that will pave the way for the inclusion
of waste pickers into the prevailing SWM models,” said Betty Cabazares,
Executive Director of Kinaiyahan Foundation.
2010, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) approved
the National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Solid Waste
Management through NSWMC Resolution No. 47 to formalize the
incorporation of the informal waste sector into the SWM system by
“providing them with a favorable policy environment, skills development
and access to a secured livelihood, employment and social services.”
clarified that the NSWMC Framework Plan has been successfully enforced
in some areas, but its implementation in various portions of the country
needs to be strictly carried out, “particularly in localities where
LGUs are subcontracting waste collection and segregation to private
companies, and in so doing, imperils the livelihood of waste pickers
whose daily work entails collection, segregation and selling of
recyclable throw-outs.”
government pushes for the adoption of “green technologies” such as
waste-to-energy plants, as a primary solution to the country’s worsening
garbage problems. This move tends to neglect the more realistic green
technology that most people working in the informal recycling sector
does for their living – inclusive recycling with social, legal and labor
rights recognition.
incessantly growing joblessness, the government should uphold pro-poor
projects and legislations that will improve occupational health and
safety of waste pickers, secure their employment and encourage more
unemployed Filipinos to enter the recycling industry,” said Thomas
Kellenberger, Founding President of the Philippine Island Kids
International Foundation, Inc.
a former Swiss policeman who abandoned his job years ago three years
ago and moved to Cagayan de Oro City to work full-time for his
foundation and help children rummaging in garbage dumps and their
families out of poverty.
the first time I visited the country in 2007, waste pickers in the
Philippines remain undignified as they struggle for the government’s
attention with respect to their social and occupational rights. They
often live in dire conditions, have very low incomes and were considered
of low social status,” observed Kellenberger.
is no doubt that people in the informal waste sector toil under an
apathetic state policy and governing environment. Despite their
pragmatic fiscal, societal and ecological impact to the communities they
live in, the government has yet to institutionalize
marginalized-inclusive policies and regulations that will defend waste
pickers’ rights and guarantee occupational stability and social
order to advance their rights, the repeatedly cold-shouldered waste
pickers need to have a voice that will represent them in local and
national policy, regulatory and collective bargaining committees.
his part, Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector (IWS) Project Coordinator
of the EcoWaste Coalition, says that one of the workshop’s objectives is
to “reinforce local waste pickers’ organizations to support their
individual and sectoral concerns and advance the improvement of their
working conditions, which yield reliable incomes and continuous decent
consultative workshop allowed partakers to tell their stories of
progress and improvement, as well as challenges being chanced upon as
they make a living from waste. Some of these challenges include secure
access to discards; exposure to health and safety risks and hazards due
to presence of toxic, hazardous and infectious wastes in the disposal
facilities; and inadequate 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.
July 24 and 25, a similar activity was held in University of Cebu –
Banilad, where more than 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 workshop.