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Monday, June 22, 2009

Clean Air Act a dead-letter law -- Chiz




Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday pushed for stricter implementation of emission standards and higher penalties for violators of the Clean Air Act to check the unmitigated air pollution that is slowly killing thousands every year in Metro Manila.


Escudero said that according to a World Bank study, close to 5,000 Metro Manila residents, or 14 people daily, die from pollution-related diseases such as pneumonia in children, cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer.


"Metro Manila air has proven to be lethal to Metro Manilans, killing over thousands every year. The deaths have not drawn much attention because pollution kills slowly and silently," he said.


The Clean Air Act, which was enacted in 1999, has largely been ignored because of the failure of regulatory agencies to strictly implement emission standards and the low penalties imposed on violators.


The fines imposed by the Land Transportation Office for smoke belching ranges from P100 to P150, depending on the number of previous violations.


Under the Clean Air Act, owners and drivers of motor vehicles found to be violating emission standards face penalties of a fine not exceeding P2,000 for the first offense; a fine not less than P2,000 and not exceeding P4,000 for the second offense; and a one-year suspension of the Motor Vehicle Registration (MVR) and a fine of not less than  P4,000.00 and not more than P6,000.00 for the third offense.


"These fines and penalties are not enough to compensate for the damage wrought on the people and the environment by these polluters. Perhaps it is time to revisit the law and make changes to make it more effective?" Escudero said.


He also called for stricter regulation of emission testing centers to make sure that vehicles are properly examined and pass the required standards.


Citing data from the World Bank's Philippine Environment Monitor, Escudero said Metro Manila has a Total Suspended Particulates (TSP) level, a measurement used to determine air quality that is oftentimes five times higher than the World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines.


He said that all pollution monitoring stations in Metro Manila show that the level of total suspended particulates exceed standards of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DENR).


Escudero said that particulate emissions are largely from motor vehicle (84%), solid waste burning (10%), and industries (5.5%).


"A total of 70 percent of motor vehicle emissions come from more than 200,000 diesel-powered utility vehicles such as jeepneys and the 170,000 gasoline-powered motorcycles and tricycles in the metropolis," he said.


Escudero also said studies show that the costs associated with treating pollution-related diseases amount to P962 million.


"This is aside from the lost income of some P6.7 billion a year attributed to these diseases. And what is more shocking in the figures released by the World Bank is that Metro Manila accounts for the most premature deaths due to outdoor pollution, which is at 4,968, or about 12 percent of all reported deaths in the metropolis," he said.


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