Fatal pollution: ‘Being in EDSA every day is as dangerous as smoking’ – atmosphere expert

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…

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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.

A toxic haze permanently blankets Metro Manila in the Philippines.

A toxic haze permanently blankets Metro Manila in the Philippines.

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!

14 Replies to “Fatal pollution: ‘Being in EDSA every day is as dangerous as smoking’ – atmosphere expert”

  1. Except for the LRT, FMarcos did not improve our train system because his allies & politicians (Farinas, Singson, et.al) own the bus franchise. Maybe same reason why our government still cannot or won’t invest more on trains MRT or mass transport system, instead of more road/flyover/expressway. Road projects will just benefits the Arabs & oil producers due to our dependency on fossil fuel. More train will reduce vehicles, pollution, accidents and promote safer & better (convenient/cleaner) future for all.

    Government should focus not only on additional coaches, line extension or new lines (Subway/LRT/MRT/PNR), maintenance & upgrading existing train facility. But much better to include the following:

    1. Additional Railway for semi or full express train service (w/ limited stops) to reduce travel time and prevent train fast deterioration (wear & tear)

    2. Exclusive railway for Freight (container/cargo) train to accelerate the flow of goods and reduce no. of truck or lorry in roads/highway.

    3. Airport express railway system that is directly connected link to a Centralise Transport Terminal with hotel facility.

    “A devel­oped coun­try is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use pub­lic trans­port”
    – para­phrased from Enrique Penalosa, for­mer Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia


    1. Like Paris/London/NYC/Tokyo/Berlin….forget it Fail-ippines.ITS TOO LATE, the area is infested with people, where are you going to put them all, never mind pay for it all, as your building the infrastructure necessary to revolutionize mass-transit in the countries NCR ? its fucked and its too late. BUT IF YOU JUST get the POS smoke burners off the streets,that would work wonders. And in five short years the air would clear up. SO DO IT !!!

  2. Benign0,
    can you please give me an idea what the direct consequence(s) might be if LTO does its work properly?
    Will jeepney-owners/drivers be out of work?
    Will bus-owners/drivers be out of work?
    Will (motorized) tricycle-owners/drivers be out of work?
    Do motorcycle owners need to buy a new motorcycle?
    Do car owners need to buy a new car?

    The next information is just for sharing purposes:
    In my country cars (including buses and taxis)drive/run either on gasoline (petrol/benzine), diesel, LPG (liquid propane gas), hybrid or electric.
    As far as the emission norms for diesel-engines, they are bound by the official Euro6-norm. This Euro6 norm equals the American EPA 13-norm. There is already one Dutch city that bans diesel-engine cars produced/manufactured before 1995 (I am not 100% sure about the year).

    1. Maybe it’s the main concern our Government to provide employment for drivers of bus, jeepneys, taxis, FX, tricycle, and pedicab. Bamicably, it’s an AMPAW way of JOB CREATION of our leaders(lazy & idle mind).

  3. The Aquino “political pollution” of EDSA, became a Real Pollution, in the atmosphere. People will soon have “Black Lungs”, as those of Coal Miners disease. Many will be wearing Mask Covers , to protect themselves from those harmful emissions of Carbon Dioxide.

    We have Laws against pollution. However, corruption will always defeat these laws.
    LTO Chief, should be burned on Stake…along with Aquino…and Roxas…

  4. A vehicle that passes inspection legally,OK? BUT then that same car is driven until it overheats ONCE (that is all it takes!) and burns the compression rings and valves in the engine so that the car smokes incessantly from burning oil(blue smoke means burning oil due to faulty compression internally in the engine.RINGS & VALVES are now needed,engine overhaul necessary or replacement engine needed…..junk the car!) and your going to fire the LTO personnel that ‘passed’ the legit test, that is called tyranny!

    No one can prove WHEN the vehicle became a pollution disaster,(its like an e-mail,no one can prove who hit ‘send’! therefore its not allowed as evidence in court!) the best way to stop pollution is to catch the ’emission test cheaters’ accepting a bribe and then,throw them in fuckin jail,they’ll stop, oh yes they will.Ever been inside a Mexican jail? Well………its worse in the Philippines, LOL !! Seriously,everything is.

  5. Dr. Gerry Bagtasta is so self absorbed, he names an institute
    (I’ll bet its not an institute like, say, UCLA’s ‘Institute for Internal Medicine’,eh? but its on U P Campus,so never been there,I reserve judgement on the labs ‘science’)
    after himself or his family. Typical Fail-ipino.

    Seriously, does anyone need Dr.Bagtasta or even Dr. Frankenstein to tell them that the Island of Luzon (include CDO & Cebu as well,they are even worse!) is a pollution disaster area? Metro-Manila/Quezon City/NCR and the entire rest of the Island has such a bad problem that during rush hour your eyes burn from all the smoke made by the vehicles spewing pollution into the atmosphere.You do not need science to know any of this.

  6. let’s get back to the main topic: decommissioning or delivery of supply using people’s money? it’s rainy season coming they need food in the mountains.

  7. London and Paris both have major pollution problems. Both cities routinely top the worlds most polluted city index.
    Paris on numerous occasions over the last year has had to ban or limit car travel in the city due to extreme levels of pollution.

    Most mornings driving along the skyway from Muntinlupa to Makati you struggle to see the skyscrapers or the city center it is just shrouded in a black haze.

    A while back i was on the MRT late at night when it broke down at Guadalupe. I had to stand on the road side and wait for a taxi. Within a matter of minutes my throat and nose started to burn and tears were running from my eyes.

    1. YAWN, there is no way that London/Paris come anywhere near the pollution levels in Luzon and the entire NCR/MM/Q.C. area’s. Maybe in air-quality,but that is all, but the garbage,public defecation,garbage on top of garbage on top of drains that are all 100% clogged etc etc.Manila’s Waterways are so polluted you’d die if you ate a fish out of that stinking Pasig river. So, NO WAY !

  8. Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.

    Because normal human activity is worse for nature than the greatest nuclear accident in history.

    Destruction is a man’s will,

    Nevertheless Prevention is also a man’s will,

    Its a man’s choice to choose between Destruction and Prevention.

    1. You already know which one the people who run things have chosen.They are idiots too. They have to live here, cause believe it or not……no one is leaving this planet to go live on another one. Not for at least 1,000 years of magnetic’s research ,if ever.This planet will be dead long before anyone figures out how to get off this rock and live on another one.

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