Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog has lamented the widespread littering that again smeared the religious celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene yesterday.
The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out the barefaced violation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act despite repetitive pleas by the church, government and civil society to avoid littering throughout the procession.
R.A. 9003 regards littering in public places among others as a prohibited act punishable by a fine of ₱300 to ₱1,000 or one (1) to fifteen (15) days of community service, or both.
The environmental group expressed its concern after the procession of the revered Black Nazarene that attracted more than 9 million barefooted devotees also left the processional route strewn with garbage.
“We are dismayed by the immense trashing of the entire processional route from Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park to Plaza Miranda in Quiapo during the feast day as if littering is an essential part of our devotion to the Black Nazarene,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Time and again, our spiritual fervor for the eminent Black Nazarene has not been manifested in our consequent actions as we continue to defile the streets passed by the procession,” she added.
While utterly saddened with the prevalent littering, the EcoWaste Coalition lauded the waste pickers and eco-volunteers from the government and civil society groups who immediately cleaned the areas along the procession and retrieved recyclable items from the garbage that nearly covered the streets.
“We salute the waste pickers, who readily looked after the immediate recovery of discards that could have ended up in canals, dumps, or burned; wasting valuable resources, polluting the environment, and endangering the health of the people,” said Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector (IWS) Project Officer.
EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrollers who kept track of the garbage situation throughout the 18-hour procession of the Black Nazarene observed the massive littering by believers and spectators alike.
In Rizal Park, devotees who attended an overnight vigil turned the 10-hectare open field facing the Quirino Grandstand into virtual dumpsite as they left piles of garbage shortly after the procession started subsequent to the early-morning Mass.
In Quiapo, the garbage situation is at its worst as many residents, visitors and vendors threw away discards all over the area, including plastic bags, plastic bottles and cups, plastic straws, polystyrene food and beverage containers, food wrappers, cigarette butts and bamboo skewers.
Portable toilets or ‘portalets’ installed in the vicinity of Plaza Miranda were not immediately collected leaving a pungent-smelling combination of the toxic stench of urine and the unpleasant smell of human wastes.
Among those who took part in the clean-up were volunteers from the church, schools and NGOs.
Government workers who joined the clean-up were from the Metro Manila Development Authority and Manila’s Department of Public Services, among others.
“We look forward to next year’s feast with the same spiritual devotion that we have for the Black Nazarene but with an increased sense of environmental stewardship and ecological discipline,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.