Informal waste sector feels pinch of coronavirus quarantine
MANILA, Philippines — The month-long quarantine imposed in Luzon may have put the lives of many on hold but it also impeded the ability of others to provide food on their tables.
“Damang-dama ng aming sikmura ang kawalan ng trabaho (Our stomachs can really feel burden of having no means to earn money),” said Ronaldo Sarmiento, president of the Manila-based Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong (SMNC) in a joint statement issued by groups belonging to the informal waste sector (IWS), together with environmental health group EcoWaste Coalition.
Unable to work because of the restricted movement of those not considered exempt from rendering “essential” work, it is the likes of Mang Ronaldo who most feel the pinch of the enhanced community quarantine being implemented to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The enhanced community quarantine has suspended the operations of public mass transportation, cancelation of classes and non-essential travel to and from the nation’s capital.
The groups called for the speedy release of much-needed support, since they could not personally provide for their own family.
“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,” Jover Llarion, EcoWaste’s Community Organizer and Campaigner, said.
IWS leaders belonging to the Nagkakaisang Lakas ng mga Mangangalakal sa Longos (NLML) and Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong (SMNC) revealed their difficulties to earn a living during 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,” said Jose Avila, Jr. president of Malabon-based NLML, said.
Sarmiento also appealed on the government to “quickly provide our sector with essential support to lessen the impact of staying home and being idle,” which he said had not been the choice of informal waste workers in the first place.
“We are keeping our 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,” the groups said.
Aside from regular delivery of food packages, the groups are also hoping to receive cash grants to pay for other basic needs such as electricity, water and other necessities during the month-long community quarantine.
According to the National Framework and Strategy on the Role of the Informal Sector in Waste Management, the said sector is comprised 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.
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