EcoWaste Coalition: No Trashing of Pilgrimage and Excursion Sites, Please

In anticipation of the surge of people taking part in Holy Week activities after a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the faithful not to leave any trail of trash in popular pilgrimage sites all over the country.

At the same time, the advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society urged those intending to visit excursion spots during the four-day long weekend to follow the eco-mantra “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but memories, kill nothing but time.”

“We request the faithful to aspire for an eco-friendly litter-free Holy Week as we recollect the passion of Christ, seek forgiveness for past sins and rekindle our faith through prayers, penance and acts of charity,” appealed Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.     

“For the sake of our fellow pilgrims and Mother Earth, please observe COVID-19 health protocols and avoid all forms of littering when you perform the Visita Iglesia (visit to at least seven churches to pray), take part in the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) and Santo Entierro (Holy Interment) processions, and celebrate Easter in the Salubong (the re-enactment of Virgin Mary’s meeting with the Resurrected Christ),” she said.

Those planning to go out of town to take a breather from the stressful pandemic and from the sizzling summer should likewise aim for an eco-friendly retreat by avoiding single-use plastics, bringing water in reusable containers, car pooling, conserving food, water and electricity, not smoking or vaping and, of course, by not leaving any garbage behind, the group emphasized.

“Regardless of where your destination is, please take this reminder to heart ‘take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but memories, kill nothing but time’ and be an eco-friendly tourist at all times,” said Lucero.

Keeping the observance of Holy Week eco-friendly, according to the group, will be consistent with the stance of the bishops who in 2015 said: “We are not owners of the earth. We are its stewards, to keep and cherish and nurture its resources not only for ourselves but for future generations.”  The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines released the statement “Stewards, Not Owners” following the celebrated encyclical letter “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home” by Pope Francis.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, litter is not only unsightly, but also unhygienic and polluting as litter attracts flies and rats and causes the spread of diseases, while creating a rotting smell from food waste.  Litter, especially single-use plastic bags, can be blown or washed into waterways and the oceans, harming marine life, the group said.   

Based on the group’s pre-pandemic monitoring of popular pilgrimage churches and shrines, among the common items left by uncaring visitors are used plastic bags, bottles, cups and cutlery, soiled paper and tissue, cigarette butts, Styrofoam food containers, picnic leftovers and improvised beddings.   

RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, bans littering and violators can be fined from P300 to P1,000, asked to perform one to 15-day community service, or be required to pay the fine as well as render community service.