27 January 2013

Cavite Green Coalition and EcoWaste Coalition Give Thumbs Up to Rosario, Cavite's Tarpaulin Ban

Groups promoting environmental health and zero waste welcomed the action by a local government unit (LGU) in the province of Cavite to ban the use of tarpaulins.    

In a joint statement, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Cavite Green Coalition gave the Municipal Government of Rosario, Cavite early thumbs up for promulgating Executive Order 51, Series of 2013 prohibiting plastic-based tarpaulin banners.   

“The unchecked use of tarpaulins, especially by ‘epal’ politicians, has become a public nuisance in our province and elsewhere, adding to the ever increasing volume of plastic garbage that is not easily recycled,” observed Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator, Cavite Green Coalition.

“Epal” refers to credit-grabbing, scene-stealing public officials and other politicians who have the penchant of advertising themselves mainly through tarpaulins.

“By their bold decision, the Rosario local authorities may have set a model environmental policy that other LGUs can emulate to prevent the avalanche of tarpaulin waste this coming election,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise commended Rosario’s action to arrest the growing volume and toxicity of municipal solid waste by controlling uses of plastic tarpaulins, which are often coated with polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin.

“Tarps, like other plastic materials, do not easily degrade, posing serious disposal problems to LGUs who have to deal with discarded tarps,” said Sonia Mendoza who heads the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastics.

“PVC tarps, in particular, contain lots of synthetic chemical additives and plasticizers, making it extremely difficult to safely recycle or dispose of at their end-of-life,” she said.

A recent investigation of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force Chemical Safety found cadmium, a carcinogenic substance, in the ink used for tarpaulin banners in the range of 71 to 1,253 parts per million (ppm).     
 
Cadmium is one of the 48 chemicals and chemical compounds in the Philippine Priority Chemical List (PCL) “that have been determined to potentially pose unreasonable risks to public health, workplace and environment.”

The European Union beginning December 2011 banned the substance in plastics and other specific uses to “
reduce environmental pollution from cadmium,” while in Minnesota, USA, cadmium exceeding 100 ppm is banned in any pigment, paint, dye or ink since 1998.

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, while the Cavite Green Coalition brings together over 20 civil society groups promoting the “green agenda” in the province.
-end-
Reference:

 

24 January 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Cautions Politicians against Toxic Campaign Materials





Quezon City.  As candidates for the May 2013 mid-term polls get ready to hit the campaign trail, the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force Chemical Safety sounded the alarm over the presence of hazardous substances in some popular campaign materials.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which earlier called for a “zero basura” election campaign, told  candidates and their groups to take precautions when choosing campaign materials as some of them may contain cadmium and lead, two of the 10 chemicals or groups of chemicals branded as “major public health concern” no less than by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Politicians should, as a matter of responsibility, ensure that their campaign paraphernalia are lawful, honest and, equally important, safe for public health and the environment,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As consumers of election merchandise, candidates should insist on chemicals in product information from service providers and suppliers.  By insisting on their right to know, they create a strong demand for safer materials during the election season and beyond,” he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically put the spotlight on tarpaulin posters and streamers, baller bands and mugs after detecting cadmium and lead in some of these popular campaign materials and giveaways with the help of a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

“Tarps, ballers, mugs and other stuff commonly used to lure voters need not exacerbate our nation’s waste and chemical woes,” Dizon said.

I.  TARPAULINS:  Two tarpaulin posters screened by the EcoWaste Coalition for toxic metals yielded positive for cadmium, a chemical that has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as “carcinogenic to humans.”   The tarps were made by signage makers in Barangay Central, Quezon City and in Divisoria, Manila for P150 and P300, respectively, at the request of the EcoWaste Coalition.   One tarp that says “play fair and green” had 78 parts per million (ppm) to 1,253 ppm of cadmium, while the other tarp that says “does it contain lead?  is it free of cadmium” had 71 to 1,177 ppm of cadmium.

The cadmium in tarps may be due to the use of cadmium in ink or paint pigments, or in making the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic of tarps.

While cadmium is included in the Philippine Priority Chemical List (PCL), the government has no chemical control order (CCO) for cadmium, a substance that is banned in plastics and other specific uses in the European Union.  In the state of Minnesota, USA, a ban has been in place since 1998 for cadmium exceeding 100 ppm in any pigment, paint, dye or ink.

II.  BALLERS:  Out of the 15 rubber and PVC baller bands analyzed by the EcoWaste Coalition,  10 were found to contain lead, a potent neurotoxin that can cause permanent brain damage.  The ballers were purchased by the EcoWaste Coalition for P10-50 each from shops in Cubao, Quezon City and Divisoria, Manila.  A baller with a patriotic message that says “Pinoy ako sa isip, sa puso, sa salita, sa gawa” had the highest concentration of lead at 11,300 ppm.

The lead in ballers can be attributed to the use of lead as PVC plastic stabilizer or the use of lead as binder, drier or pigment in paints.  Lead, like cadmium, belongs to the PCL.  A draft  CCO for lead and lead compounds, introduced as early as 2007, has yet to be approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  If approved, the CCO will ban the use of lead as PVC stabilizer and will impose a 90 ppm limit of lead in paint similar to the US standard.

III.  MUGS:  In 2012, the EcoWaste Coalition detected excessive levels of cadmium up to 9,296 ppm and lead up to 31,700 ppm in dozens of mugs that the group procured from various commercial hubs in Metro Manila.  Lead, in particular, is used for decorating and glazing mugs and other ceramic or glass tableware.  The CCO for lead and lead compounds, if approved, will also prohibit the manufacturing of lead containing glazes on food and beverages' containers, vessels and utensils.

For the EcoWaste Coalition, the careful selection of campaign materials to procure, display or distribute will be beneficial for the people and the environment as this will:

a. prevent “chemicals of major public health concern” from being introduced to the market and the environment
b. avoid potential human exposure to dangerous substances
c. cut trade in products containing harmful chemicals
d. push consumer demand for non-toxic products
e. reduce disposal of toxic-laden waste materials in cement kilns, incinerators, dumpsites and landfills

The EcoWaste Coalition is a public interest network of community, church, school, environmental and health groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.

 -end-

Reference:

http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/chemicals_phc/en/index.html

http://www.saferstates.com/2010/07/cadmium.html

23 January 2013

EcoWaste Coalition: No Let-up in the Illegal Trade of Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics


 
Quezon City.  The sale of skin whitening cosmetics laden with mercury remains rife, a toxics watchdog lamented after finding more contaminated products that are openly sold in the market, particularly in Divisoria.
 
“We are dismayed by this unlawful sale of mercury-containing cosmetics despite nonstop efforts by the government, civil society and the media to inform vendors and consumers about the risks of using such dangerous products,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
 
“Mercury is highly toxic to human health and exposure to mercury in skin lightening products may damage the kidneys, decrease skin resistance to bacterial and fungal infections and cause other health problems,” she said.
 
The EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol on Tuesday went to Divisoria and purchased five items from stores selling beauty products and Chinese medicines.  The samples were screened today for mercury using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.
 
The EcoWaste Coalition has forwarded its findings to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has so far banned 71 mercury-containing skin whitening creams since 2010.
 
As per XRF analysis, two of the samples yielded positive for mercury above the government’s allowable limit of one part per million (ppm):
 
1.  “White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L-Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream,” supposedly manufactured by Vitality Health Center, USA, with 4,489 ppm of mercury (bought from VitaGreen Chinese Drug Store, DS-21, Ground Floor, Primeblock Bldg., Tutuban Center, Divisoria)
 
2.  “Zyiang Day Cream” (no label), with 10,100 ppm of mercury (bought from Shawill Mini-Shop, 703 Sto. Cristo St., Divisoria)
 
“The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal,” warned the World Health Organization (WHO).
 
“Neurological and behavioural disorders may be observed after inhalation, ingestion or dermal application of different mercury compounds,” the WHO said, adding that “symptoms include tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches and cognitive and motor dysfunction.”
 
WHO has also warned that “mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into wastewater.”
 
“The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish,” it said.
 
WHO has warned that “pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children.”
 
-end-
 
Reference:

17 January 2013

Actor, Beauty Queen, Bishop Back Drive for Zero Basura Election

Quezon City.  A veteran actor, a ‘green’ beauty titlist and a senior church leader have thrown their support behind a well-timed call by an environmental watchdog for a “zero basura” 2013 election campaign.

Actor Roy Alvarez, beauty queen Stephany Stefanowitz and Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez made a pitch for earth-friendly campaigning following an appeal by the EcoWaste Coalition to all aspiring local and national political leaders to engage in a meaningful ‘zero basura’ poll campaign that will, by design, keep the generation of trash to the minimum.

“I urge all well-meaning candidates, as well as their supporters, to be environmentally-responsible and heed the EcoWaste Coalition's call for a 'zero basura' election campaign. Please try not to add to our country's problems with litter and pollution," said Roy Alvarez, a professional film, television and theater actor.

“The election frenzy will surely consume lots of precious resources. Candidates should, as much as possible, avoid the wasteful use of such resources and take extra steps to lessen the generation of garbage from the campaign activities.  Reducing, reusing and recycling campaign discards will be beneficial for the environment,” said Miss Earth-Air 2012
Stephany Stefanowitz.

“It will be grossly insensitive for candidates to spend and waste unreasonable amounts of resources in order to win at the polls.  The electorate will be apprehensive of candidates who have no qualms in exceeding the spending limits and in trashing the environment just to win.  To the candidates, I say: ‘let nothing be wasted’ (John 6:12),” said Caloocan Bishop Deogracias I
ñiguez,
head of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

The EcoWaste Coalition thanked Alvarez, Stefanowitz and I
ñiguez for their support as the group renewed its call to all political candidates and groups to be always mindful of the environmental effects of their decisions and actions.  


The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier come up with a 10-point “Guidelines for a Zero Basura Election Campaign” to guide candidates and their groups in reducing, if not eliminating, campaign waste. To wit:

1. Designate a lead team in the campaign structure that will be tasked to prevent or reduce campaign waste to the minimum in all activities.

2. Target zero tolerance on garbage in all campaign meetings, sorties and related activities.

- Keep the campaign litter-free.
- Shun throwing confetti (which is littering per se), exploding firecrackers (which contributes tobair, garbage and noise pollution), releasing balloons in campaign events (which are blown to the bseas and oceans, causing pollution and harming marine animals) or lighting sky lanterns (which can cause fire and endanger wildlife).
- Refrain from using Styrofoam, plastic bags and other single-use containers for volunteers’ meals and drinks.
- Set up segregated waste bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards in campaign assemblies.
- Designate “eco-volunteers” to look after the bins and guide the public in the proper separation of their discards. Clean up right after the campaign event.
- Hire a local waste picker to pick up segregated wastes from campaign venue for recycling/composting.

3. Refrain from using excessive campaign materials such as leaflets, pamphlets, posters, stickers, decals, streamers and other campaign paraphernalia.

4. For election propaganda materials: include a friendly reminder that says “Para sa ating kalusugan at kalikasan, huwag pong ikalat, itambak o sunugin” or its equivalent in local languages.

5. Avoid the use of specific campaign materials such as tarpaulin and other plastics as their disposal have been environmentally problematic.

6. Use post-consumer recycled paper for campaign materials to conserve trees and protect our forests, watersheds, and ecosystems. To make recycling easy, avoid using plastic-coated paper.

7. Stay away from campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled such as confetti, buntings and balloons. These are often burned or discarded in storm drains, esteros, rivers, seas and dumps.

8. Reject graffiti or vandalism, or the willful or malicious defacing or destruction of property.

9. Harm not the trees: spare the trees of election campaign materials. Use designated common poster areas.

10. Win or lose -  remove election campaign materials from all sites within one week after the
election day.

14 January 2013

Politicians Urged: Campaign Clean, Shun Garbage



14 January 2013, Quezon City.  With the start of the election season last Sunday, an environmental watchdog dared all political contenders to campaign clean sans the usual 4Gs of Philippine politics: Guns, Goons, Gold and Garbage.

Particularly setting their sights on garbage, the EcoWaste Coalition called on all political wannabes – from those running for local positions to those aspiring to become congressional and party list representatives and senators – to commit to “zero basura” election campaign.    


“This early, we appeal to politicians across the political spectrum to restrain from engaging in dirty campaigning and to strive for an ecological ‘zero basura’ outreach to the electorate.  We will call the attention of candidates who will campaign dirty,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Through ‘zero basura,’ we hope to prevent and reduce waste and pollution from the vigorous campaign operations and activities during the next three months and avert the further degradation of our fragile environment,” he said.    

“We also hope that candidates will come up with meaningful platforms integrating sustainable solutions to the chronic garbage, toxic, disaster and livelihood woes facing many of our communities, and not only shake hands, hug babies, or sing and dance to amuse voters,” he added.

The group voiced its environmental plea ahead of the official campaign period of February 12 to May 11 for senatorial and party-list candidates, and March 29 to May 11 for those vying for congressional and elective regional, provincial, city and municipal posts.

To begin with, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends that all those aspiring for elective positions should designate a person or team in the campaign machinery who will be responsible for greening the electoral platforms, strategies and activities.

Candidates should refrain from using too much campaign materials such as leaflets, pamphlets, posters, stickers, decals, and plastic and tarpaulin streamers.

Propaganda materials should be in post-consumer recycled paper and carry a friendly reminder that says “para sa ating kalusugan at kalikasan, huwag pong ikalat, itambak o sunugin” or its equivalent in local languages.

Candidates should refrain from using campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled such as confetti, buntings and balloons, which often get burned or discarded in waterways, seas and dump sites.  Candidates and their supporters should not light sky lanterns as this may cause fire and endanger wildlife, too.

Trees don't vote; politicos should spare the trees of propaganda materials that can harm and even kill them.  Candidates should reject graffiti or vandalism to popularize their names.

For litter-free campaign meetings, sorties and related activities, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following:

• Shun throwing confetti, exploding firecrackers or releasing balloons and sky lanterns in campaign events.

• Refrain from using Styrofoam, plastic bags and other single-use containers for volunteers’ meals and drinks.

• Set up segregated waste bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards in campaign assemblies.

• Designate “eco-volunteers” to look after the bins and guide the public in the proper separation of their discards.

• Clean up right after the campaign event.

• Hire eco-aides to handle the segregated wastes for recycling and composting.

Win or lose, the EcoWaste Coalition urged candidates to remove election campaign materials from all sites immediately after the election day on 13 May 2013.

-end-

11 January 2013

Groups Push for Mercury-Free Dental Care, Hit Over-the-Counter Sale of Mercury


Quezon City. The unregulated over-the-counter sale of liquid mercury that is used for dental fillings should cease in the interest of public health and safety.

The EcoWaste Coalition made this urgent proposal after the group’s AlerToxic Patrol managed to procure a small bottle of mercury for P280 from a dental supply store in Sampaloc, Manila along the University Belt.

The highly toxic chemical, contained in a delicate bottle with no label and precautionary information, was effortlessly procured with no question asked or certification for intended use demanded by the sales person.

“We find it very disturbing to find out that such an extremely harmful chemical poison is sold in the most reckless way, which could result to mercury being released into the environment due to breakage, spillage or misuse and causing accidental and, God forbids, deliberate exposure to mercury. We need to stop such over-the-counter sale as if mercury is just a piece of candy.  In fact, we should aim for mercury-free dental care,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

The group immediately alerted the Department of Health through the Food and Drug Administration, which is now looking into the issue.

The EcoWaste Coalition found an ally from a professional group, the International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT-Philippines),that is working for mercury-free dentistry.

“As we push for phasing down strategies for reducing and eventually phasing out the use of mercury in dental amalgam, we see the need for the authorities to impose procedures that will severely restrict as soon as possible the importation, distribution and sale of mercury for dental use,” said Dr. Lillian Lasaten Ebuen, founding President, IAOMT-Philippines.

At a conference held on December 10, 2012 around the theme of "Philippines towards Mercury-Free Dentistry," Health Secretary Enrique Ona told a conference co-organized by the IAOMT and World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentisty with the DOH about the “clandestine and covert” assault of mercury on human health.

“Mercury emits vapors that are colorless and odorless, which when inhaled, is absorbed into the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain and placental barrier. More often than not, human exposure to mercury occurs at such a low level that is ignored and forgotten,” he said.

The Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Mercury and Mercury Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 1997 warns that “mercury and mercury compounds are toxic to aquatic life even at low concentrations, especially the methylated forms of mercury.”

Mercury, the CCO said, is known to bio-concentrate greatly in the food chain causing risks to humans who become ecological receptors through fish ingestion,and resulting to neurological disorders through the inhalation of mercury vapors and ingestion of methylated forms of mercury.

While not banning the use of mercury in dental amalgam, the CCO stipulates strict handling requirements that should be adhered to.

According to the CCO, any container or vessel containing mercury must be properly labeled and that the label should indicate the mercury and mercury compound content, precautions required in its handling and emergency response measures to be taken in case of spillage or any untoward incident.

A chemical safety workshop on mercury organized by the EcoWaste Coalition recommended a review and revision of the 15-year old CCO to proactively  prevent and control the dispersion of mercury from known pollution sources, including mercury in products, processes and wastes.

Governments and other stakeholders are meeting in Geneva next week to continue negotiating for a global legally-binding treaty to address mercury pollution, which remains “a major global, regional and national challenge in terms of threats to human health and the environment,” according to the United Nations Environment Programme. 

-end-

10 January 2013

Black Nazarene Feast Leaves Piles of Garbage (Green Group Salutes Waste Pickers and Eco-volunteers)



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.

-end-

07 January 2013

'Epal' Politicos Urged Not to 'Tarpaulinize" Black Nazarene Feast

After pleading to Black Nazarene devotees to support a garbage-free fiesta, the EcoWaste Coalition is now begging politicians not to plaster Plaza Miranda and the processional route with tarpaulins.

“It’s very tempting for politicians eyeing the 2013 polls to use the occasion to sell themselves through ‘happy fiesta’ tarpaulin banners. We appeal to their sense of propriety and defy such a temptation. ‘Tarpaulitics’ has no place in an event whose only focus, should and must be, the Black Nazarene,”said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

‘Tarpaulitics’ pertains to the brazen use of tarpaulins to advertise the faces and names of politicians or political wannabes for the purpose of establishing familiarity and support among the electorate, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“We ask politicos from all the contending factions not to ‘tarpaulinize’ what should be a celebration of unity in faith,” Alejo added.

Propaganda tarpaulins, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, only add to the enormous fiesta clutter and trash that will have to be managed or disposed of sooner or later.

“Tarpaulins do not lead to a ‘happy fiesta.’ In fact, tarpaulins are a nuisance that can confuse the spiritual message of unity, block the public view of the procession, harm the trees and muddle up the bridges, electric cables, lamp posts and structures where the tarps are usually fastened or hanged,” he said.

Instead of spending for worthless tarpaulins, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes to well-meaning politicians to divert funds meant for printing and putting up tarpaulins to:

- provide devotees with free meals in biodegradable or reusable packaging

- pay for extra personnel needed to help in sweeping the Quiapo district clean
- provide for waste segregation bins or sacks in appropriate spots, as well as pay for volunteers who will look after the bins

- support barangay environmental law enforcers to catch and fine litterbugs

Politicians can also help in the post-fiesta cleanup of littered streets and in the removal of unsightly banners and buntings in the area, the EcoWaste Coalition added.

-end-

06 January 2013

Devotees Urged: Go Green on Black Nazarene Feast


 
Environmental advocates gathered near Quiapo Church to intensify their call for a clean and safe celebration of the annual feast of the Black Nazarene on Wednesday. 

The EcoWaste Coalition adopted the theme for this year’s feast  and called on the devotees to espouse ecological devotion through its slogan: “Debotong Mapagkalinga: Nananalig, Sumasaksi” (Caring Devotee: Believing, Bearing Witness). 

In a serene action today, EcoWaste Coalition and the Samahang Pagkakaisa ng mga Tindera sa Talipapa (SPTT) held miniature images of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (NPJN) and lit green candles urging devotees to celebrate the religious festival with the good of the people and the environment in mind. 

After singing the NPJN hymn, the group recited an environment-themed “Panalangin ng Bayan” (prayers of the faithful) touching on some burning problems of ecology facing the Filipino nation.
 
The group specifically prayed for the victims of last month’s typhoons hoping that “ang mga komunidad at pamilya na nagdurusa sa nangyaring paghagupit ng kalikasan, laluna ng bagyong Pablo sa Mindanao, ay makabangon sa kanilang pagkakalugmok at makapagsimulang muli. 

The group also rendered prayers for the safety of all devotees who will participate in the upcoming feast so that “ang nalalapit na pista ay maging ligtas sa anumang kalabisan o sakuna na maaaring makapinsala sa tao at kapaligiran,” while consequently wishing that “ang bawat deboto ay maging huwaran ng mabuting pagkalinga sa sarili, pamilya, pamayanan at kalikasan.”

The green activists paraded through C. Palanca Sr., P. Gomez, R. Hidalgo and Villalobos Streets and Quezon Boulevard requesting the public, especially the faithful devotees and the enterprising vendors, to observe an ecological fiesta.
 
To further reiterate their point, a “Basura Monster” clothed in a wardrobe of plastic trash joined the parade brandishing a mock shield made of garbage with a text that reads, “Huwag mo akong gayahin” (Do not imitate me).

In his homily during the Feast of Black Nazarene last year, then Archbishop and now Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of Manila challenged the faithful to show their utmost reverence for the Black Nazarene by respecting the environment.

Patunayan natin na hindi na natin hihilain si Poong Nazareno at ang kalikasan pababa dahil sa ating kawalang malasakit. Kakain kayo ng candy, pagkasubo ng candy, huwag ka namang napakayabang na parang ang buong Luneta ay iyong basurahan, na ang papel tapon mo lang, ang yabang mo kapatid. Hindi mo basurahan ang buong siyudad ng Manila. Magpakumbaba, huwag tayong mayabang,” Cardinal Tagle declared in his homily last year.

Echoing the Cardinal’s plea, the environmentalists reminded the public to “express our reverence and devotion for the Black Nazarene sans shameless littering.” 

“The religious feast is not an excuse for litterbugs to have a field day defiling the streets of Manila without fear of being admonished and punished,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“As followers of the Black Nazarene, we expect the devotees to fulfil their sacred vows in an environmentally responsible manner,” she added.

“Littering affects the quality of the environment and can even threaten the health and safety of the devotees,” she said.

For instance, improperly discarded bamboo skewers have been blamed for foot injuries among devotees many of whom walked barefoot during the procession,” Vergara said.

After a historic 22-hour procession last year, tons of garbage were left by a record eight million devotees, particularly in Luneta and Quiapo.
 
To address the expected bulk of fiesta garbage, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to various sectors to commit themselves in an eco-friendly and practical waste minimization efforts. 

A. For the devotees: 1) refrain from smoking to avoid cigarette butt litter; 2) if you smoke, please don’t toss butts on the ground; 3) if you chew gum, do put it in a bin after you’re done with it; 4) do not spit on walls and other spots; 5) do not urinate on the streets, 6) return used food and beverage containers, including bamboo skewers, to the vendors; 7) put your discards into the designated bins; and 9) bring a reusable bag if you are planning to buy some “pasalubong” from Quiapo.

B. For food and beverage providers: 1) pack meals in biodegradable packaging such as banana leaves and paper or serve meals, as well as drinks, in reusable containers; and 2) collect all food leftovers for “kaning baboy.”

C. For vendors: 1) refrain from using single-use disposable containers; 2) bring your own “sako” for your discards; and 3) make a final sweep of your vending area before you leave.

 

-end-