Magna Carta of Waste Workers, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine National Waste Workers Alliance, EcoWaste Coalition
Photo: Mother Earth Foundation

As the Philippines marks its 126th year of independence, the newly established Philippine National Waste Workers Alliance (PNWWA) urges lawmakers to enact a Magna Carta for Waste Workers to secure vital legislative protection. This significant move seeks to recognize the indispensable work of waste workers and waste pickers and address the social and economic challenges they face daily.

Formed in February 2024, PNWWA is a coalition of 12 waste worker organizations representing over a thousand members across the archipelago. Their unified voice underscores the need for legislative action to improve the working conditions and safeguard the rights of waste workers and waste pickers nationwide.

“We are calling for, among others, just compensation and social benefits and protection because we provide essential services to society. We are as deserving of such benefits and protection as any other worker, perhaps even more so. Without us, society will not function efficiently,” said Aloja Santos, Dumaguete Women Waste Workers Association (DWWWA) president and PNWWA founding president.

The Magna Carta for Waste Workers

In February, during a national consultation with waste workers organized by Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) with the support of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, which resulted in the establishment of PNWWA, participants formulated 10 priority demands that must be reflected in a draft Magna Carta. These demands were shaped by extensive consultations with waste workers conducted by MEF over the years.

The demands are:

  1. Enforcement of Labor Standards (Pagpapatupad ng mga Pamantayan ng Paggawa)

  2. Hazard Pay (Bayad sa Panganib)

  3. Health Insurance and Services (Seguro at Serbisyong Pangkalusugan)

  4. Humane and Safe Working Conditions (Makatao at Ligtas na Kalagayan sa Pagtatrabaho)

  5. Job Security (Seguridad sa Trabaho)

  6. Just Compensation (Tamang Pasahod)

  7. Meaningful Participation in Policy Spaces (Makabuluhang Pakikilahok sa mga Usaping Pampolisiya)

  8. Right to Organize (Karapatang Mag-organisa)

  9. Social Benefits and Protection (Kapakinabangan at Proteksyong Panlipunan)

  10. Training (Pagsasanay)

Following the consultation, a Magna Carta for Waste Workers was drafted and PNWWA presented it to Senator Loren Legarda. As the author and principal sponsor of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Senator Legarda with her legal team immediately studied the proposed legislation and filed the bill on April 17, 2024, which is now pending in the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.

“I acknowledge the validity of the demands of the waste workers — their call for fair treatment, job security, and access to essential services resonates deeply with the principles of justice and equity. These are valid concerns that warrant attention and action, and I am committed to working collaboratively in finding solutions that ensure a just transition for all,” Senator Legarda said.

Atty. Christopher John C. Menguito, Managing Trustee of the Philippine Earth Justice Center, explained the importance of integrating these solutions into the law through magna carta as he said, “The purpose of the law is to make the lives of the people better.”

Waste workers and waste pickers: frontline environmental defenders

As the world faces multiple environmental crises and ecological collapse, the contribution of waste workers and waste pickers as frontliners in combating waste pollution is needed now more than ever. Data reveals that methane, a potent greenhouse gas, accounts for about 30% of the rise in global temperature since pre-industrial times, and in 2021, anthropogenic waste is among the major sources of methane emissions. In Metro Manila alone, waste generation contributes 22.2%, 24.5%, and 26.7% to the Philippines’ solid waste in 2010, 2014 and 2020, respectively. This underscores the power waste workers wield towards ensuring a sustainable and waste-free future. From composting to diverting reusable materials away from landfills, they play a vital part in waste management and recycling, offering practical and cost-effective solutions to address both waste and climate issues.

“This moment underscores the importance of recognizing waste workers and waste pickers as frontline environmental defenders. We must prioritize their rights and ensure they have full labor protections under the law. This commitment sets the foundation for collaborative advocacy, fostering a truly inclusive and just transition,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chair of the Mother Earth Foundation.

“The Magna Carta for Waste Workers is a powerful tool in fostering significant change not only in the Philippines, but for the whole Southeast Asian region,” according to Froilan Grate, Regional Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific. “Waste workers and waste pickers are claiming their rights, making their voices heard and their presence felt. Their desire and determination to be part of the process are crucial in the shift towards a sustainable waste management system. Together, we are forging a future where we do not leave anyone behind.” —Press release from the Mother Earth Foundation/MF

Flipscience bookorder Flipscience book on Amazonpreorder