MANILA, Philippines—Watch your car’s exhaust or you could end up facing a P1-billion class-action suit an organization of doctors is preparing against those who contribute to air pollution in Metro Manila.
The Philippine Medical Association announced Tuesday it was filing a multisectoral class suit against the Department of Transportation and Communications and all owners of vehicles that failed the smoke emission test for “directly and indirectly” contributing to the “life threatening” air quality in the metropolis.
The PMA said that Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas would be included in the lawsuit as the head of the sole government agency tasked under Republic Act No. 8749, or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, with regulating and enforcing the law on vehicles.
Owners and operators of vehicles apprehended for smoke belching and failing the smoke emission test would also be named respondents in the complaint.
The names will be culled from the records of various government agencies such as the Land Transportation Office, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as local government units, according to the PMA.
“The PMA is leading our partners in the fight to clean the air in Metro Manila,” said the group’s president, Dr. Oscar Tinio. “We would like to exhaust all possible solutions, including legal action against those who directly or indirectly contribute to the life-threatening state of the air in the metropolis.”
Tinio noted that the air quality in Metro Manila posed a “clear and present danger” to its 14 million residents, with 80 percent of pollutants coming from more than 3.2 million vehicles plying its streets daily.
Air pollution not only causes respiratory illnesses but also cardiovascular problems like heart attack, stroke or even sudden death, according to Tinio.
“The provisions of RA 8749 confirm our individual right to breathe clean air. They also provide the legal basis for the filing of a citizen’s suit against those who violate the clean air law,” said PMA Manila governor Dr. Leo Olarte.
Olarte noted that the law allows an individual to bring action in court or quasijudicial bodies to “enjoin all activities in violation of environmental laws and regulations, to compel the rehabilitation and cleanup of affected areas and to seek the imposition of penal sanctions against violators of environmental laws.”
He invited concerned citizens and those affected directly or indirectly by the air pollution to join the lawsuit.
“The class suit is being prepared by our legal team,” said Dr. Mike Aragon, PMA spokesperson. The civil complaint will be filed in the Quezon City regional trial court.
Last month, the PMA urged President Aquino to be Metro Manila’s anti-air pollution czar, noting that at least 40 percent of all medicines purchased in Metro Manila were indicated for cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.
The Department of Health has attributed the high incidence of noncommunicable diseases – allergies, acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, cancer and cardiovascular ailments – to air pollution.
The 2006 National Emission Inventory of the DENR said 65 percent of air pollution was caused by vehicles and 21 percent by stationary sources like factories and waste burning.
But in Metro Manila, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said, 80 percent of the emissions came from vehicles.