Issue of May 20, 2018
Mt. Province

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The Bontoc Green Police

They wake up at 5 a.m. and proceed to the waste collection area to make sure that the bags of garbage brought there are segregated.

It has been six years now since the Green Police committed to this responsibility and they have not lost enthusiasm. They are grandmothers and mothers organized by the municipal government of Bontoc through the Municipal Environment and Natural Resour-ces Office (Menro). They have responsibilities at home and at the office, they have businesses to run, and rice fields to attend to; but they find the time to help in waste management.

Women in the four central villages of Bontoc – barangays Samoki, Caluttit, Poblacion, and Bontoc Ili – for an hour every morning ensure that garbage is segregated and the public is informed on how to segregate their wastes. This is their contribution to solving the garbage problem in the capital town.

For many years, Bontoc used an open dump site in Matoytoy-ok, Caluttit above the Chico River until the Kalinga Anti-Pollution Action Group filed a Writ of Kalikasan against Bontoc in 2012, forcing the local government to close its open dumpsite.

The Green Police were neither chosen nor hired by the municipal government to solve the garbage problem in Bontoc. They volunteered their time and effort. When the municipal government sponsored a training for Green Police in June 2013, these women signed in.

Aurelia P. Ofo-ob was one of those who attended the seminar. They were trained on how to reuse and recycle plastics into bottled bricks, flower pots, table cloth, bags, wallets and cellphone cases, among other things.

The knowledge and skills that Aurelia and the other participants acquired were used after the training. It was the beginning of a bigger responsibility. They united and agreed that they need to act to help the local government address the problem on solid waste. With the guidance of the Menro, the Green Police was formed.

Making the public segregate their waste at home or at their business establishments before bringing it to the waste collection area was the first challenge for the Green Police.

Aurelia, who is detailed at the waste collection area along the road in Kalonglong, said they struggled every time garbage was collected.

When the segregation of biodegradable, non-biodegradable and residual wastes was introduced, not everyone was responsive. Even with the massive information, education, and communication campaign conducted by the municipal government on garbage management, some still brought their unsegregated garbage. Others half-heartedly segregate their waste when asked by the Green Police at the collection posts and there were few who stubbornly said that, “Garbage is garbage, so leave it as it is.”

Still, the Green Police stood their ground and explained to residents the reason for the strict implementation of solid waste management policies.

Like teaching a child the alphabet, the Green Police taught the residents proper waste segregation practices. Their task for the day did not end with policing those who brought their garbage at the waste collection posts.

Those who are staying in transient and boarding houses were the common violators of the policy and the ones who did not follow the schedule of bringing out their garbage. Some even bring their unsegregated garbage to the waste collection area before the collection schedule.

The garbage would be scattered by stray dogs. The Green Police would sweep and collect the unsegregated garbage.

The Green Police do not complain about their duty, which they fulfill five times a week. But they stress that compliance with garbage segregation and disposal should be a shared responsibility of everyone.

The Green Police appealed to those who live near the garbage collection area to help by reporting those who dump their garbage outside the schedule.

After years of implementing the policy, the Green Police said they observed an improved compliance. Scattered and unsegregated garbage are now rarely seen, and they now rarely hear complaints.

Mayor Franklin C. Odsey authorized the Bontoc Green Police to issue citation tickets to those who litter, spit, as well as to establishments and individuals who use Styrofoam and plastic bags as containers for dry goods.

The municipal government also recognized the role of the Green Police in solid waste management.

For their health, sanitation and safety, the Green Police members were each provided a pair of boots, gloves, and a flashlight. They were also provided uniforms, including a vest and a jacket, to keep them warm when they go to the collection areas early in the morning.

Recognizing their industry, patience, and dedication, the municipal government in 2017 allotted P1,000 as monthly honorarium for each member of the Green Police. This increased to P1,200 per month in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Even with this token appreciation of their efforts, the Green Police say they continue to help in waste management, not for fame or reward. They also do not take all the credit in putting an order to waste collection. What matters to them is that people realized that they play a role in finding a solution to the garbage problem.

AT WORK -- Waking up at wee hours in the morning is not a burden to these women of the Bontoc Green Police in order to fulfill their duties in making sure that bags of garbage brought by residents are properly segregated. -- Alpine Killa


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