Will workers in scrap trade get 'ayuda' too?

Informal waste sector (IWS) workers from Metro Manila are pleading for cash aid or "ayuda" from the national government during the upcoming two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from Aug. 6 to 20.

E-waste dismantlers in Camarin, Caloocan City (Photo from EcoWaste Coalition)

“Ang hiling namin ay mabigyan kami ng makakain sa araw-araw dahil wala naman kaming mapagkukunan ng pambili ng makakain kung hindi papayagang makalabas para makapamili ng kalakal at makapagbaklas (Our plea is for us to have food everyday since we won't have the resources to buy food if we won't be allowed outdoors to collect scrap and dismantle them)," said Ronaldo Sarmiento, of the Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong (SMNC) based in Tondo, Manila.

“Ayaw man namin ay may magpipilit na lumabas pa rin para makapangalakal dahil ito lamang ang aming pinagkakakitaan (Even if we don't want to, some of us will insist on going outdoors to find a source of income)," Benedicto Nario of the Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal sa Bagong Silang (SMBS) in Caloocan City said.

"Para maiwasan na kami ay lumabas sa gitna ng peligro ng COVID-19 Delta variant, hiling naming mga e-waste dismantler na magkaroon ng suporta sa pangaraw-araw na pangangailangan hanggang payagan kaming muli na makapangalakal (To avoid this amid the threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant, we e-waste dismantlers would like to get support for our daily needs until we are allowed outdoors again)," Nario stressed.

The ECQ is the strictest lockdown protocol that can be imposed by government. The two-week ECQ is meant to curb the local transmission of the more dangerous Delta variant of COVID-19 through strict stay-at-home orders.

The availability of cash assistance was integral to the national government's decision of greenlighting the hard lockdown. However, IWS workers, which are considered daily wage earners, can't help but wonder if they would be included in the distribution of cash or food aid.

“We are one with the informal waste workers and their families in urging the authorities to listen and act on their plea for sufficient assistance to see them through the two-week work disruption,” said Jover Larion, e-waste campaigner of environment and toxics watchdog EcoWaste Coalition.

“We also appeal to electricity and water providers not to proceed with any service disconnection due to unpaid bills during the ECQ. The IWS families and other monetary poor and vulnerable households, in particular, will appreciate such a caring response from concerned companies during these tough times,” he added.

As defined under the National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Solid Waste Management, the IWS includes “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.”

“IWS workers contribute to positive economic impacts on the overall solid waste management, handl(ing) large volumes of waste materials at practically no cost to the government or taxpayers,” the framework plan said.