Environmental Group Cautions Pilgrims vs "Alay-Kalat," Asks Politicians to Respect "No Campaign" Policy

A waste and pollution watchdog that recently called on the Catholic faithful to heed the plea made by Pope Francis for environmental protection has exhorted those who will join the penitential walk to Antipolo City on Maundy Thursday not to make a repeat of last year’s “trashing” of the annual “Alay-Lakad.”

The EcoWaste Coalition prodded the mostly youth penitents to turn away from what the group described as the most evident “environmental sin” that is often ignored by people of all ages and walks of life.

“Littering is an environmental sin that many pilgrims take for granted as they carry out their penitential walk from their homes to Antipolo City,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The rampant littering during the “Alay-Lakad” in previous years has tarnished what was meant to be a solemn act of reparation for wrongs done and an affirmation of faith to God the Creator, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Let it not be said that the streets leading to Antipolo Cathedral were litter-free before the pilgrims came as if it was an occasion for all-out littering,” she said.

Fearing that some national and local candidates will take advantage of the multitude of voters who will take part in the pilgrimage, the EcoWaste Coalition asked political candidates and groups not to use the solemn affair for partisan campaigning. 

“We appeal to all candidates for the mid-term polls not to distribute leaflets nor hang banners and posters on trees, electric posts and other prohibited spots that will surely add to the garbage woes and lessen the solemnity of the walk,” Vergara added.

Last year, the EcoWaste Coalition decried the unchecked disposal of trash along the Alay-Lakad routes such as the Ortigas Avenue Extension, Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway, particularly in the Cainta and Tikling junctions, and in the vicinity of churches and roadside “Stations of the Cross” where pilgrims briefly halt to pray.

Among the most littered item were food packaging materials, plastic bags, cups and straws, soiled newspapers and corrugated boxes, and cigarette butts, the group noted.

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded the pilgrims that there is no justification for any citizen to defy Republic Act 9003’s ban on littering.
R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits the littering and burning of discards and other acts that could imperil the public health and the environment.

Littering is punishable with a fine of P300 to P1,000 or a one to 15-day community service at the local government unit where the unlawful act was committed, or both.

On the other hand, open burning is punishable with a fine ranging from P300 to P1,000, or a one to 15-day imprisonment, or both.
For a truly “Alay-Lakad” not ‘Alay-Kalat,” the EcoWaste Coalition has advised the pilgrims to observe the following eco-reminders:

1.  Avoid all acts of arbitrary disposal such as littering, spitting and urinating in public.

2.  Put discards on your pocket or bag until you have found a proper place to dispose of them.

3.  Refrain from smoking during the walk to prevent pollution from tobacco smoke and from cigarette butts.

4.  Bring your own water in a “reusable container" to avoid buying bottled water or “palamig" in plastic bags or cups.

5. To reduce the consumption and disposal of single-use plastic bags, please bring a reusable carry bag if you plan to bring home any of Antipolo’s favorite pasalubong such as kasoy, kalamay and suman.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.