The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) Region 7 has taken the cause of its newest environmental heroes – the garbage collectors -- in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

DENR-EMB 7 recently donated some 1,600 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to garbage collectors of Mandaue City in Cebu province who are vulnerable to the novel coronavirus and other hazardous infections that may be present in solid wastes collected from hospitals, healthcare facilities and households. 

“If there are medical frontliners, the garbage collectors are environmental frontliners,” said DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny D. Antiporda, adding “these environmental warriors are also putting their lives in line for our people and our country to ensure that we control this global pandemic.” 

The donation, which costs P60,000, consists of 60 double and single respirators with cartridges (NP306 and NP305), 104 pairs of high duty reusable safety gloves, and 1,500 pairs of disposable gloves. 

Food packs were also turned over to Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes for distribution to the city’s garbage collectors.
Additional PPE consisting of coveralls worth P100,000.00 and respirators worth P77,000.00 will be turned over to the local government of Mandaue in the next two weeks.

“We support EMB-7’s initiatives to donate and share their resources with the environmental frontliners, our fellow environmental warriors. Our garbage collectors play a critical role especially during this outbreak. We will do our best to respond to their needs in the best way possible,” added Antiporda.
According to DENR-EMB 7 Regional Director Lormelyn Claudio, the PPE were initially intended for the quick response teams of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officers (PENROs) and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers (CENROs) in the region. However, aware of the similar and urgent need of protection of the garbage collectors in the city due to the coronavirus crisis, DENR EMB 7 decided to donate a large portion of its PPE supplies to them.

“We realized that our garbage collectors need them more than we do. Now more than ever, their work potentially exposes them to hazardous wastes,” said Claudio.

Claudio said they will also distribute specially-designed 200-liter capacity silo drums to prevent spillage of medical wastes during transport to disposal sites. 

Given the increasing COVID-19 cases in Central Visayas, Claudio said DENR-EMB-7 is also working on a system to improve the handling, collection, and disposal of solid wastes from barangay health centers and households with suspect or probable cases. She also calls on local government units to strictly implement the garbage disinfection protocol of the Department of Health.

Claudio added the garbage collectors have been working long hours since the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the province of Cebu to ensure that all household and hospital wastes are regularly collected and properly disposed.
“Our garbage collectors are our partners in the implementation of our Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003. It is our responsibility to help them,” said Claudio.

Aside from PPE, DENR-EMB 7 will also provide the environmental frontliners in COVID-19 positive cities with P2 million worth of supplies such as food packs and vitamins.

DENR-EMB spearheads the implementation of environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
On March 22, the provincial government placed Cebu province under ECQ after it recorded COVID-19 cases in several cities including Mandaue City. The lockdown will be enforced until April 28. ###