Informal waste sector workers call on gov’t for aid during Luzon-wide lockdown

Published March 18, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Chito Chavez 

Quezon City-based environmental group EcoWaste Coalition on Wednesday joined the informal waste sector (IWS) in calling for much-needed support as the public feels the pinch of the enhanced community quarantine imposed on Luzon in a bid to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The groups clamored for the government to impose regulations that will ensure the speedy provision of social protection and assistance to make ends meet during the month-long quarantine.

“The necessary restrictions on people’s mobility to contain the dreaded coronavirus have hindered the ability of the informal workers, including those belonging to the IWS, to carry on with their usual livelihood. Kailangan po talaga ng mabilisang tulong (We need quick help),” noted Jover Llarion, Community Organizer and Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

IWS leaders belonging to the Nagkakaisang Lakas ng mga Mangangalakal sa Longos (NLML) and Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong (SMNC) had revealed their current extreme financial burden, considering this is just the onset of the quarantine period.

“For example, itinerant or mobile waste buyers who used to move around the city to buy recyclable waste materials now have to stay home in line with the government’s policy to control the spread of COVID-19. Walang kita para sa pamilya (They have no earnings for their families),” said Jose Avila, Jr., president of Malabon City-based NLML.

“Damang-dama ng aming sikmura ang kawalan ng trabaho (We can feel in our stomach the pains of unemployment),” said Ronaldo Sarmiento, president of Manila-based SMNC.

“Considering our ‘no work, no food on the table‘ situation, we appeal to the government to quickly provide our sector with essential support to lessen the impact of staying home and being idle, which is not our choice,” the IWS said.

Both groups have kept their fingers crossed that President Duterte would keep his promise that no one would go hungry amid the COVID-19 quarantine, and that the IWS would be on top of the government’s priority list of most vulnerable sectors to be assisted during these tough times.

Aside from the regular delivery of food packages, the groups also hope to receive cash grants to pay for other basic needs such as electricity, water, and other necessities during the month-long lockdown.

According to the National Framework and Strategy on the Role of the Informal Sector in Waste Management, the IWS is composed of “individuals, families, groups, or small enterprises engaged in the recovery of waste materials either on a full-time or part-time basis with revenue generation as the motivation.”

Among those who depend on waste recovery for a living are the itinerant waste buyers, paleros (garbage trucks crew), ‘jumpers’ (those who jump into collection trucks to recover recyclables), waste pickers in dumpsites and communal waste collection points, informal waste collectors, waste reclaimers, and small junk shop dealers.

‘’Despite their important role in resource conservation and waste management, IWS members often work in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, lack social and economic security, and enjoy very limited access to basic needs,’’ the groups said.

READ MORE: Entire Luzon under quarantine