Presidential aspirants Grace Poe, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Mar Roxas, if elected, will carry out measures to improve the plight of the country’s army of informal waste workers.
The three candidates unveiled their thoughts to help impoverished informal recyclers through the responses they provided to the questions on wastes and toxics asked by the EcoWaste Coalition, a chemical safety and zero waste advocacy group. The other two candidates, Jejomar Binay and Rodrigo Duterte, did not respond to the questions sent.
They were asked by the group about their plans to ensure that the informal waste workers are duly recognized for their contributions to the environment and the economy, and are provided with safe and secured jobs.
As per government definition the informal waste sector includes individuals, families, groups or small enterprises engaged in the recovery of waste materials to generate income. They work under substandard and unhealthy conditions with no social and economic security and with limited access to basic services.
“Waste workers will benefit from the grant-for work program my administration will introduce to complement the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. Through this initiative, we will indirectly formalize waste workers by enlisting them as agents contracted by the state,” Santiago said.
“The outcome of research and development funds that we will funnel to recycling and composting innovation is also expected to create job opportunities for waste workers,” the candidate of the People’s Reform Party added.
For Poe, “the economic and social contributions of the sector in reducing collection and disposal costs must be recognized and incorporated as part of the framework of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, and Redesign (5Rs) that governs waste management at the local level.”
“Once the waste recovery activities of the informal waste sector are integrated into mainstream waste management, it must be ensured that they are given access to health services and education, as well as protective gear such as gloves and face masks to protect them from diseases due to their exposure to various types of biodegradable and chemical wastes, through a joint circular from the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” she said.
“Alternative livelihood opportunities must be provided for the informal waste sector, such as the establishment of recycling cooperatives, facilitating access to affordable finance to enable investment in micro and small enterprises, and providing skills development,” added Poe who is running under the Partido Galing at Puso.
According to Roxas of the Daang Matuwid Coalition, “the informal sector plays a very important role in recovering much of the usable portions of the waste and must be integrated into the formal solid waste management system of the local government units (LGUs) to maximize the recovery of compostable, recyclables and reusable portions of the waste.”
“At the same time, through their integration, they will have access to health care services and other social services,” he pointed out.
“LGUs will be encouraged to make them part of the formal solid waste management program of the city/municipality and mobilize them to maximize waste recovery in the Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), which all LGUs are mandated by RA 9003 to set up,” he said.
Roxas stressed that “budgets set aside for waste hauling should be recast to provide budgets for waste recovery instead.”