On March 24, the United States government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Clean Cities, Blue Ocean program, donated eight waste collection vehicles to increase the capacity and efficiency of “Eco Warrior” waste collectors from Barangay Bancao-Bancao, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
These vehicles, which include five bicycles, two motorcycles with sidecars, and one four-wheel multicab, were provided through the program’s grant to the Philippine organization Project Zacchaeus, which seeks to address ocean plastic pollution and the critical needs of those working in the informal waste and recycling sectors.
“USAID strongly believes that partnerships, community engagement, and customized solutions are important for the success of our development projects,” said U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava. “We are pleased to turn over these vehicles to the Eco Warriors, who have emerged as local leaders in sustainability and waste management, as we work together in curbing ocean plastic pollution and building sustainable circular economies.”
The waste collection vehicles were received by USAID grantee Project Zacchaeus Marketing Cooperative (PZC) founder John Gastanes and Eco Warriors president Lydia Casiano. The vehicles will expand the Eco Warriors’ previous collection capacity and provide enhanced waste services to an estimated 3,000 households in Puerto Princesa.
“We are very grateful to USAID for providing our Eco Warriors with these vehicles,” said Bancao-Bancao barangay captain Gayjun Dangan. “Truly, these will help improve our city’s waste collection system and increase the income of our Eco Warriors.”
Coined by Project Zacchaeus, Eco Warrior refers to the informal waste collectors that the organization helps educate on solid waste management. These informal waste collectors provide for their families and ensure a healthy environment.
USAID, in partnership with PZC, the city government of Puerto Princesa, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), is also building the knowledge and skills of 60 Eco Warriors on proper waste management, occupational health and safety, and leadership.
The Land Transportation Office provided the nine selected Eco Warriors who will operate the vehicles with free driving courses, while TESDA provided free training on vehicle maintenance. The training, combined with the new resources, aims to improve waste services, facilitate higher earning potential among the waste collectors, and equip the Eco Warriors as community leaders and educators who promote more sustainable waste practices such as waste segregation in the community.