18 March 2020, Quezon City. Groups belonging to the informal waste sector (IWS) appealed for the speedy provision of much-needed support as they directly feel the pinch of the enhanced community quarantine to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Together with the environmental health group EcoWaste Coalition, IWS groups clamored for attention to 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,” 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) 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, NLML based in Malabon City
“Damang-dama ng aming sikmura ang kawalan ng trabaho.” said Ronaldo Sarmiento, President, SMNC based in Manila City. “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.”
“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 lockdown.
According to the National Framework and Strategy on the Role of the Informal Sector in Waste Management, the IWS 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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