Metro Manila is one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world. It is estimated that 35% of more the 20 million inhabitants of the city is living in slum areas with limited access to sanitation, healthcare and education.
Ulingan community in Malabon is one of the poorest. It is located on the border of a garbage mountain once known as “The Smokey Mountain”, a slum officially closed in the 1990’. The resettlement residences provided by the Philippines’ Government were built in remote areas where little facilities are provided. Inhabitants who decided to stay in Metro Manila still make their living from garbage scavenging or production of toxic, community- made charcoal widely used in the area as a cheaper substitution for gas and electricity.
Considerable part of those working are children, who held out of school spend hours working in extreme heat and toxic smoke. They earn between 50 cents and 1,5 euro per day and are paid only when the whole work is done and the charcoal is sold to a local vendor.
“The Ulingans”, as they are called, are constantly exposed to harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and soot, as well as chemicals when burning treated wood. The result is a myriad of respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Estimates suggest that 60% of the population has tuberculosis while other lung problems and water-borne diseases are common.
The small-scale charcoal production is illegal and unregulated, but stays as the only opportunity for the families who are often withdrawn from any legal protection or financial help of the Philippines government.