Eco-Kolek, a startup company that enables community based impact leaders to champion eradication of plastic pollution and improvement of waste segregation, was awarded a grant subsidy of more than P10 Million from USAID under their Clean Cities and Blue Ocean program.
The said startup will benefit almost 60 garbage scavengers mostly from Brgy. Bancao-Bancao in Puerto Princesa. The goal is that in two year’s time, they will be able to employ and train with different leadership workshops and eventually make the project sustainable.
According to Eco-Colek Founder John Vincent Gastanes, this is the first time they submitted a project for funding to USAID and it took them a year with all the process and changes they have to comply. Being one of the top 5 who received the grant along with other known companies and NGOs who submitted their bid, it’s really an honor especially they are just a start-up company.
“It was last year the process was so stringent kasi isang buong taon siya andami niyang process bago ka maka-range, na subject ka for the proposal actually hindi dinis-close sa amin specific ‘yung mga nakalaban namin, and definitely I can sense na marami rin kasi nakita ko ‘yung mga nanalong company together with us mga established na company. Imagine ‘yung company ni Antonette Taus, established na ‘to, mga kilala na sa United Nations kaya sabi ko top of the top ang mga naglaban-laban kaya kami ‘yung underdog dito. We are start-up, we’re very new but pagdating sa community development naman immerse kami sa ganyan, kasi we do not do projects for the sake of helping , we do projects because together we want to engage sa everyday lives nila,” Gastanes said.
The Eco-Kolek project as per Gastanes has three components, first is to uplift the status of their beneficiary not only as garbage dig collector, they will also undergo some training with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. The second part of it is making them as the voice of the advocacy in cleaning our ocean and seas, as well as the environment.
The last phase of the project is focused on the management level to sustain the project after two years of its operation with the grant.
Gastanes’ idea of Eco-Kolek stems from a long problem in Barangay Bancao Bancao where health and sanitation has somehow not been a priority.
“For the past 7 years, nakita ko ang dami na may sakit doon and some of our leaders died already dati because of lack of proper health and sanitation.”
He even shared a story about a young girl whose mom died due to complications she got from being a garbage picker.
“This picture was very memorable sa akin. She’s one of the sweetest kid na lagi nagpapasalamat sa akin. Even during those days na wala ako money and what I could offer them is just the time to listen. Sadly her mom died na because complications na acquire niya sa pagbabasura ng walang tamang protection and lack of strategic approach. I don’t want to lose more scavengers.”
Gastanes believes that his startup will be instrumental in empowering informal waste pickers and help increase their daily earnings.
“ ‘Yan lang po sinubmit namin, nag focus kami do’n sa collector kasi sila ‘yung may capacity to collect plastic bottles. Imagine mo sa isang araw they can get as much as 3,000 bottles in one day, isang collector lang ‘yan. Imagine if you’re empowering 60 waste takers na focus lang sila,” Gastanes added.
Eco-Kolek is one of the incubatees being supported by the DOST-funded Technology Business Incubator – Palawan International Technology Business Incubator.