(Left, in red) ECO-Kolek project director John Gastanes visits the waste collector community in Jacana, together with USAID Clean Cities Blue Ocean (CCBO) Asia Regional Director Rene Acosta (right, in blue). (Photo courtesy of Project Zacchaeus)

Local social enterprise Project Zacchaeus has partnered with the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO) for its ECO-Kolek project, an initiative that aims to help waste collectors (mangangalakal) in Puerto Princesa.

One of the City ENRO’s commitments to ECO-Kolek is to help beneficiary waste collectors get mandatory health insurance, according to ECO-Kolek project director John Gastanes.

“Ang isa sa mga na-commit ng City ENRO ay ang linkage ng mga mangangalakal sa PhilHealth, with the help of the CSWDO (City Social Welfare and Development Office). Second is they will development modules for a course that will be taught sa mga mangangalakal. Sila ang magiging contributor sa content. Ituturo kasi sa kanila ang mga batas, katulad sa waste segregation, tsaka sa environment,” Gastanes said in an interview on Friday.

“Pangatlo, they facilitated the MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the city government para ‘yong mga collector ay magiging example ng community-based waste segregation program. Sila [collectors] ang magiging prototype. Parang magiging part kami ng buong ecosystem ng waste segregation sa Puerto Princesa,” he added.

The project is currently being developed in Barangay Bancao-bancao, where the Samahan ng Mamamayan ng Jacana (SMJ) is located. SMJ is composed of around 60 waste collectors.

One of the first phases of their projects was recently completed in mid-October when the collectors were given tailor-made protective uniforms that would protect them while they do their rounds around the city. They were also given gloves and face masks aside from uniforms.

ECO-Kolek is a grantee of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Clean Cities, Blue Ocean program. It was also awarded $250,000 in January by the USAID to achieve its goals. Its main goal is to develop a waste collection system aided by a mobile app that will connect city residents to waste collectors in their area.

Gastanes said the app is being developed with the help of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

On the other hand, households that hand over their recyclable waste to collectors will receive incentives and rewards for their participation.