Do Filipinos lack discipline, initiative? Lessons to learn from a trash picking foreigner

January 8, 2019 - 12:18 PM
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Cops collecting trash in Boracay
In this photo: Policemen collect trash in the waters off the beach at the holiday island of Boracay during the first day of a temporary closure for tourists, in Philippines April 26, 2018. (Reuters/Erik De Castro)

A foreigner picking up trash along the sidewalk of Bonifacio Global City in Taguig prompted a discussion on the lack of discipline of Filipinos in terms of garbage disposal in the country.

Facebook user John Mendel Espina narrated that he chanced upon a foreigner, a certain Emily, picking up trash along the sidewalk near BGC Forum, a popular establishment in the city.

He was hesitant to approach her at first, Espina admitted, but he eventually mustered up the courage to talk to her and apologize for the amount of litter in the area.

Naglalakad ako sa BGC Forum papuntang SM Aura nang makita ko ang isang foreigner (girl) na namumulot ng mga kalat sa mga…

Posted by John Mendel Espina on Thursday, January 3, 2019

“Ang pangalan niya ay Emily. Agad agad, humingi ako ng tawad at sinabing nahihiya ako dahil sobrang kalat talaga dito sa Pilipinas. Nagpasalamat din ako sa ginagawa niya. Ang sabi niya sa akin ‘Well someone has to do an initiative, right?’” he said.

Espina also shared that he felt guilty for not helping her at that time. To make up for it, he asked if he could take pictures of her to post on Facebook in hopes of inspiring others as well.

“I think this is the lamest thing to do to help her. Pero sabi nga “someone has to do an initiative,” he said.

“Sorry, Emily, I was not able to help you clean. 🙁 I am really ashamed of myself for not really stopping and help you pick up trash. But I promise that I will do my part as a Filipino citizen to throw my trash in the right place,” he added.

The woman’s initiative gathered praises in the comments section. At the same time, people also expressed how ashamed they were of themselves for having the bad habit of littering.

comment 1 for foreigner throwing trash away
Screenshot by Interaksyon

One user pointed out that the source of the problem may be the lack of trash cans in many public areas.

“Sabihin natin mag lagay ng basurahan sa kalsada, ang problema naman natin ay mga magnanakaw na kukunin ung mga basurahan at ipapakilo,” Facebook user El Lucas said.

comment 2 for foreigner throwing trash away
Screenshot by Interaksyon

No other details were revealed about the foreign national.

Never-ending litter in the Philippines

During the holiday season, environmental groups and advocates decried the truckloads of litter produced in large public parks, such as the Luneta Park in Manila, after the celebrations.

Big companies were also supposed to hold balloon-dropping events to welcome the New Year. These were eventually thwarted after social media users expressed concerns on balloons’ harmful effects to the environment.

The Philippines, which was ranked as a top polluter in 2017, is similar to other developing countries with a “sachet economy,” according to an article.

“Sachet packaging, normally made of a thin film of plastic and aluminum in a sandwich laminate form, has captured many of the poor market segments and has allowed giants such as Unilever and P&G to gain market share and profit,” said Dennis Posadas.

Posadas wrote that sachets are beneficial to people, but are considered a “nightmare to the environment.”

“Because there is no economic incentive to collect used sachets that have been improperly dumped, no one bothers to pick these up. This contrast with a one-liter plastic bottle that might be worth something once collected and returned for its deposit,” he said.

Littering or the improper disposal of trash in public is illegal, according to the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and the Anti-Littering Law of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. Unfortunately, these laws are not always strictly implemented around the country.