Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dirty pilgrims

It is often said, “cleanliness is next to godliness.” What then are we to make of so-called devotees who made a mess—literally—of their Holy Week rituals?

Over the weekend, a waste and pollution watchdog decried the littering that marred the “Alay-Lakad” penitential walk of thousands of Catholic faithful last Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, which incidentally was the 42nd Earth Day.

“We are saddened by the seemingly apathetic pilgrims who spoiled the penitential trail to Antipolo Cathedral with plastic rubbish and other garbage,” said Basura Patroller Manny Calonzo of EcoWaste Coalition.

“While we’re delighted to see families and friends walk together to fulfill their sacrificial vows, we could not help but moan about the uninspiring environmental indifference of some pilgrims as if Mother Earth does not matter,” he said.

“Littering was so extensive even though it is banned by [Republic Act] 9003 and related local environmental laws,” Calonzo added.

The long stretch of Ortigas Avenue Extension that traverses Pasig City, Cainta and Taytay, Rizal, and Antipolo City, was littered with assorted trash such as clear plastic bags for drinking water and samalamig (coolers), plastic straws, cups and bottles, chips wrappers, paper scraps, cigarette butts and food leftovers, EcoWaste Coalition noted.

The Antipolo Cathedral—home to La Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje, which some Catholics regard as a miraculous icon—was carpeted with scattered newspapers discarded by pilgrims, which kept church caretakers very busy on Earth Day.

Calonzo quoted parish personnel interviewed by the EcoWaste Coalition on Friday morning saying that 15 staff assigned to clean up the church compound were likely to consume the 150 big garbage bags set aside for the massive occasion.

Outside the church, yellow-clad “Clean and Green” personnel of the Antipolo City government swept the roads leading to the Cathedral as small trucks hauled the garbage to a disposal site.

Also, enterprising child and adult wastepickers were seen painstakingly
retrieving recyclables left behind by the pilgrims.

The garbage collected from the church and the streets of Antipolo would then be dumped at the city’s waste disposal facility located in Tanza I, Barangay San Jose, while the recyclables would be sold to junk shops.

“While disappointed with what we saw, we remain optimistic that future pilgrimages to Antipolo will treat Mother Earth more kindly. Next time, please abide by the law and don’t litter,” EcoWaste Coalition said in a press statement.

RA 9003, also known the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, lists littering, throwing and dumping of waste matters in public places as prohibited acts under the law’s penal provision.

Antipolo City, which produces 139 tons of trash daily, has enacted Ordinance 2008-287, also known as the “Basura Code,” which prohibits littering, while Ordinance 2009-370, bans plastic bags and polystyrene containers.

For next year’s “Alay-Lakad,” EcoWaste Coalition has proposed that local authorities deploy “litter-busters” all throughout Ortigas Avenue Extension and other major roads leading to Antipolo Cathedral to apprehend environmental offenders, “only then will litterbugs start to
break the dirty habit.”


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