27 January 2024, Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-government organization campaigning for the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, urged those leading and participating in the kick-off rally of the “Bagong Pilipinas” movement in Rizal Park tomorrow, January 28, to keep the massive event litter-free.
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. (PBBM) is expected to grace the huge rally, which aims to, according to the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), “ignite hope and inspire participation in building a better Philippines through collective action.” The rally will take place as the observance of the Zero Waste Month this January draws to a close.
“We appeal to the rally leaders to foster environmental citizenship among the participants by exhorting them to keep the park and adjacent areas litter-free,” said Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. “Please ensure compliance to the park’s ‘clean as you go,’ no smoking and no vaping policy for the common good.”
Environmental citizenship, the EcoWaste Coalition said, recognizes that we, the Filipino people, are an integral part of ecosystems and that each person has the responsibility to respect, protect, and nurture the environment upon which the economy and society depend on.
According to the group, keeping the rally litter-free will be compatible with the Kalinga at Inisyatiba para sa Malinis na Bayan (Kalinisan) program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). One of its objectives is “to raise awareness and encourage participation among the Filipino citizens on environmental responsibility through proper solid waste management.”
In the nationwide launch of the “Kalinisan sa Bagong Pilipinas,” PBBM himself called for public participation to address the waste and pollution woes facing our communities. He lamented that trash “flows out to seas that have become cesspools of our waste” and plastics “have become dead pools of marine life, cellophanes choking corals to death, microplastics ending up in the fish that we eat.”
PBBM underscored the importance of not littering and of building “clean and green” communities. “Government will do as much as it can, but it can only do so much. We cannot deploy sweepers who will follow each citizen around and pick up every trash that is thrown. We cannot spend tens of billions a year collecting garbage whose volume could have been reduced through individual daily reuse and recycling. At the end of the day, it is not only modern equipment that will win the war against waste,” the president said.
“We hope this Sunday’s rally will not see a sad repeat of the trashing of Rizal Park during the Traslacion of the venerated image of the Black Nazarene after being put off for three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tolentino said.
Last January 9, the group decried the horrendous “carpet of trash” left by the devotees following the vigil and solemn Mass that preceded the mammoth procession. Dumped into the park grounds were single-use plastic bags, bottles and cups, polystyrene food containers, paper food packaging, food waste, cigarette butts, and disposable vapes.
To avoid a repeat of such a trashy situation, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the organizers to heed these suggestions:
— Request the rally participants to bring their own food and water in reusable containers to minimize consumption of food and water in disposable packaging.
— Request the attendees not to throw rubbish on the ground and to pick up after themselves before going home.
— Request participating groups to assign individuals who will remind and monitor compliance to Rizal Park’s no littering, no smoking, and no vaping policy.
— Request vendors to bring their own trash bags and make a final sweep of their space before leaving.
Organizers should also advise rally participants to refrain from bringing plastic tarpaulin banners and placards, which may contain toxic substances like cadmium and lead that may end up contaminating the environment.
The group also appealed to the organizers not to set off fireworks, throw confetti or release balloons at the end of the rally to further minimize waste and pollution.
“As a government-led mobilization, we expect the authorities to firmly enforce RA 9003, which penalizes littering and other prohibited acts such as open dumping and open burning,” added Tolentino.