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EcoWaste Coalition Asks the Faithful to Practice a Plastic-Free Holy Week

Quezon City / Manila — Carrying a big cross, members of the environmental watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition reenacted the Way of the Cross at the historic Intramuros to exhort the faithful to give Mother Earth a break from plastic pollution by making the Holy Week free from single-use plastics (SUPs).

The call is in anticipation of the surge of people who will observe and take part in the Holy Week activities, especially the traditional “pabasa,” “visits to churches and pilgrimage sites, “Alay-Lakad” to Antipolo City, “Santo Entierro,” the Easter “Salubong” and related events.

“As we are invited to meditate on Jesus’ journey to the Cross and beyond, this is also an opportune time for devout Catholics to reflect on how plastic pollution caused mainly by SUPs is affecting the People and the Planet. We appeal to the faithful to steer away from the insidious throw-away culture that is turning our lands and oceans into dumping grounds and observe climate-friendly and SUP-free practices for the sake of our environment. As stewards of God’s Creation, we are inviting everyone to act with compassion and urgency to save Mother Earth.” said Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition.

Plastic-Free Holy Week
Members of the EcoWaste Coalition wearing native hats bedecked with assorted plastic trash stage a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) in Intramuros, Manila with a poignant call for action to halt the reckless use and disposal of single-use plastics (SUPs), which is causing pain and harm to Mother Earth.

The group also echoes the plea of Caritas Philippines, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition, for a more sustainable Holy Week observance. “As stewards of God’s Creation, let us reflect on the impact of our actions on the environment during this Holy Week,” said San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Vice President of Caritas Philippines. “We can honor the sacred occasion by embracing practices that lessen waste and pollution.”

Emphasizing their earlier calls, the Coalition mentioned that ecological conversion and solidarity is urgently needed amid the triple planetary crisis (climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss) that the world is facing, which threatens human health and ecosystems.

As part of the program, the group read a “Panalangin ng Bayan” or Prayers of the Country which are calls to action addressed to different sectors of society. Here, they call on the different sectors to showcase the profoundness of Catholic faith by implementing the Laudato Si which calls for the church and its followers to “care for our common home”. Furthermore, the group prayed for the government officials and agencies to implement the laws protecting the bodies of water, land, and air by steering away from using plastics as cement kilns. They also appealed that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) release the list of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials.

“We are again appealing to all Catholic devotees to follow the eco-mantra ‘take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but memories, kill nothing but time’ as they carry out or participate in spiritual activities, or go out of town during the long weekend with their relatives and friends,” added Tolentino.

In the previous years, the Coalition monitored pervasive littering in some popular pilgrimage churches and sites. The most common items discarded by uncaring visitors are used plastic bags, bottles, cups and cutlery, cigarette butts, and food containers.

“We hope that unlike the previous Holy Weeks, the pilgrims will take ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ to heart, lessen their usage of SUPs and never drop any litter during their observance of the Holy Week,” Tolentino said.

Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act bans littering and violators can be fined from P300 to P1000 asked to perform one to 15-day community service, or be required to pay the fine as well as render community service.

Towards a SUP-free Holy Week, the EcoWaste Coalition invited the faithful to practice the following:

  1. Don’t use and carelessly dispose of SUPs, especially in pilgrimage sites
  2. Minimize the use of plastic tarpaulins, which may contain toxic cadmium and lead, for announcing Holy Week activities
  3. Segregate waste materials at its source in order to reuse, repair and recycle inorganic or non-biodegradable discards, and compost organic or biodegradable materials
  4. For those going out-of-town, remember: “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”
  5. Observe a litter-free and smoke-free conduct of the Senakulo, Alay Lakad and other events.
  6. Add an environmental dimension to your neighborhood’s Via Crucis on Good Friday by picking up litter along the route.
EcoWaste Coalition
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