The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
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We have received from Philippines a series of answers to our call for information of actions by waste picker organizations from 5 groups (4 from Metro Manila, and 1 from Cagayan de Oro City in southern Philippines) thanks to the EcoWaste Coalition.


Organizations that participated in the survey:

  • Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong (SMNC) (Tondo, Manila City, Philippines) [E-waste dismantling, house-to-house  buying of e-waste]
  • Nagkakaisang Mananambakan ng Dumpsite Area, Inc (Tondo, Manila City, Philippines)
  • Samahan  ng mga Mangangalakal sa Bagong Silang (SMBS)
  • Samahan  ng mga Mangangalakal sa San Vicente Ferrer Camarin Caloocan City (SMSVFCCC)
  • Waste Collector Association (WCA)

They provide these services: informal picking, dumpsite waste picking, door-to-door collection, house-to-house buying of e-waste, e-waste dismantling.

Strategies that waste pickers have for protecting themselves

  • We try to follow the government’s call to use face mask and rubbing alcohol and to practice social distancing.However, not everyone has access to mask and alcohol.  Some just cover their noses and mouths with clothes.
  • While social distancing is implemented in the community, there are waste pickers who bring their young children with them on the cart.  They are used to waste picking as a family, and there is no one at home to look after the children.
  • We use clothes as improvised face masks.  Because of the checkpoints and the lack of Quarantine Passes, we have no choice but to stop going house-to-house to buy e-waste
  • Improvised face masks.
  • Stopped e-waste buying for now because of the lock-down.
  • Not everyone is wearing face mask (not cheap and not easy to find).  We make use of clothes to cover our noses and mouths.
  • We have to stopped from buying e-waste because of the restrictions on movements during the quarantine period.
  • We need a Quarantine Pass to get our of our place.
  • Wearing of mask, gloves and boots.

Recommendations and training/outreach strategies that your organization is providing to waste pickers.

  • At present, mass gatherings are not allowed during the quarantine period.  Because of this restriction, we can only talk individually with our members.
  • We rely on the village council or the City Hall for information on COVID-19.
  • We give advice to our members on what not to do during the quarantine period, but not everyone follows, especially those who really need cash to buy food for the family.  We coordinate with village council for the food and medical assistance. As of this writing, they have not yet provided anything except for rubbing alcohol.
  • We also make representation to the village authorities to allow the waste pickers to work even only in the morning so they can earn money to buy food.  We are luckily allowed to do so, and our members follow.
  • The government’s quarantine procedures do not allow us to gather together as a group, so we get our information about COVID-19 from what is given by our village authorities, from what we see on TV as well Facebook.  We also coordinate with our village leaders to get our members listed for food and livelihood assistance. No assistance provided yet except for the Quarantine Passes.
  • We are not able to disseminate information about COVID-19.
  • Our members get information about the virus through our village health worker and health emergency response team, and through what we watch on TV.  Like other community groups, we have submitted our members’ list to the village authorities with the hope that they will be included in the list of beneficiaries for the food and medical assistance.  So far, we have only received Quarantine Passes and hygiene kits consisting of 1 small bottle of alcohol, 1 small soap at 1 face mask)
  • We rely on the information shared by our village council through our health worker and area leader.  We also get information from the television and from Facebook. Our group has provided the village council with the names of our members for the government’s food and medical assistance.  Except for the Quarantine Passes, our members have yet to receive assistance.
  • Solid waste management and safety training for waste collectors.

Are you making any requests to residents to dispose of their waste differently right now?

  • We’ve been asking them to practice waste segregation.
  • Cover all waste cans.
  • Dispose of used masks separately (at present, used masks are mixed with other discards, which may infect waste pickers).
  • Use gloves and masks when throwing waste from home to the pick-up point.

Specific challenges you are facing in the face of covid19

  • The situation is especially difficult for the informal waste sector: waste picking is limited, we can only move around in the morning, going house-to-house is restricted due to the checkpoints.
  • Our family will have nothing to eat if we do not work.
  • We lack knowledge about COVID-19, and the village council is also lacking in information. Not all of our members have Quarantine Pass (ID card to show when we are asked to, especially at the checkpoints).
  • The number one challenge being faced by our sector hunger as we’ve been forced to stop from working due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  We don’t get immediate help because of the hugeness of our village (note: Barangay Bagong Silang is the most populous village in the Philippines, and second largest in terms of land area).
  • Because of the limited space available in our community and in our own household, we find it difficult to practice social distancing as recommended by the health authorities.
  • The government’s enhanced community quarantine (or lockdown) has resulted to us not being able to go house-to-house to buy e-waste.
  • “All of us e-waste dismantlers will be idle with our mouths open if the situation lasts longer” said Samuel “Buboy” Espinosa.
  • We lack information and knowledge about COVID-19.
  • Our families and children are hungry.
  • We lack food because we can no longer move around as we used to do.  Before the lockdown, some of our members even cross nearby cities and provinces to buy e-waste.  This is no longer possible because of the lockdown.
  • We are experiencing an enemy that cannot be seen. We need to work together to fight the virus. There are people not following orders for waste management. Because of COVID-19, some residents just leave their waste outside their homes and stray dogs come and look for food in the waste bags.

Specific requests your organization is making to the government or others regarding the protection of waste pickers or informal workers more generally.

  • For the waste pickers to be included in the governments’ TUPAD program even as street sweepers only (please note of TUPAD below)
  • For the government to prioritize the informal waste sector during the public health crisis, particularly in the provision of food subsidies and alternative jobs.
  • Pay attention to the needs of the entire informal waste sector, especially our need for food and for alternative job during the lockdown.  Include us in the TUPAD Program of the government.
  • We request the national and local government authorities to include and prioritize the informal waste sector in the TUPAD program, and also to provide us with food assistance and will alternative livelihood while the threats of COVID-19 continue.
  • Put the members of the informal waste sector among the priority beneficiaries of the government’s food and livelihood assistance in response to the crisis.
  • Include us in the TUPAD program of the Department of Labor and Employment.
  • Our request is the following: personal protective equipment (PPE) for waste collectors during working hours.

Note: TUPAD is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers, for a minimum period of 10 days, but not to exceed a maximum of 30 days, depending on the nature of work to be performed.  TUPAD is a project of the Department of Labor and Employment and is implemented in coordination with local government units.

Related news from Philipppines: Informal waste sector feels pinch of coronavirus quarantine and Informal waste sector workers call on gov’t for aid during Luzon-wide lockdown.