Apparently CNN Philippines considers this “news” — maybe because this time, an expert in the field of atmospheric physics said it: people exposed to pollution along EDSA could be at high risk of cancer.
According to Dr. Gerry Bagtasa who is head of the Bagtasa Atmospheric Physics Laboratory of the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology of the University of the Philippines, concentration levels of highly-cancerous black carbon are at their worst at the bottom of that highway’s underpasses such as the one at the Shaw Boulevard intersection.
To emphasize just how lethal pollution along EDSA is, Bagtasa compares air pollutant levels there with global standards showing that pollution concentration levels are up to 1000 times higher than in most advanced European cities…
In his studies, he found out that black carbon in other countries range from 1 to 10 micrograms per cubic meter. In Germany, the amount is 5 micrograms per cubic meter.
In contrast, measurements in EDSA, particularly at the Ayala Station of the MRT and the Shaw Boulevard underpass, can reach 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter — well beyond the acceptable standard.
Interestingly, land public transport accounts for the biggest contribution to the bad air quality in Manila thanks to an abundance of old, ill-maintained diesel vehicles in the Philippine capital’s bus and jeepney fleet. It is interesting because the Philippine government, through its Land Transportation Office (LTO) exercises absolute regulatory power over the issuance of permits to operate these vehicles. For that matter, the LTO is responsible for routine emissions testing on all land vehicles, public or private, as a condition for annual registration.
Republic Act 8749, otherwise known as the Clean Air Act of 1999 has been in effect for motor vehicles since 2003. Section 22 of the Act states…
Any imported new or locally-assembled new motor vehicle shall not be registered unless it complies with the emission standards set pursuant to this Act, as evidenced by a Certificate of Conformity (COC) issued by the Department.
Any imported new motor vehicle engine shall not be introduced into commerce, sold or used unless it complies with emission standards set pursuant to this Act.
Any imported used motor vehicle or rebuilt motor vehicle using new or used engines, major parts or components shall not be registered unless it complies with the emission standards.
Section 46 states that vehicles apprehended on suspicion of violation of this law on account of “visual signs, such as, but not limited to smoke-belching” will be given seven days to correct mechanical issues that cause the violation. But that’s as far as the law goes. The trouble with the law is that it leans heavily on punitive action only against owners and operators of offending vehicles. There are no consequences for the government agencies, in this case the LTO, responsible for inspecting and clearing vehicles for registration and renewal.
Corruption at the LTO likely accounts for many ineligible vehicles being issued permits to operate. Alfonso Tan, chief of the LTO is currently facing charges of dereliction of duty suit slapped by the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates (CCAA). The complaint cites “massive corruption in the agency’s motor vehicle emission testing process”.
Adding provisions to the law to make the LTO and its personnel accountable for emissions violations is an obvious opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the law. It is a fairly-straightforward solution that only requires that each vehicle registration document be uniquely-identified and directly associated to the LTO personnel who conducted the inspection and approved registration. In this way, when a vehicle is apprehended for emissions law violation, both the vehicle operator and the LTO personnel associated with that year’s registration of said vehicle can be investigated and held accountable. Under such a process, LTO personnel woud, in principle, think twice about clearing a vehicle for the 500-odd pesos people say it costs to make under-the-table deals with LTO officers.
Indeed, it is likely that the data to effect this simple solution already exists in the LTOs databases. It just takes a bit of thinking and political will to implement!
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