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Amid dirty Metro air, group raises doubts over emission test centers

/ 07:00 AM October 03, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Citing the deterioration of the air quality in Metro Manila, environmentalists are doubting the effectiveness and credibility of private emission testing centers (PETCs) that are accredited by the government to examine vehicles as part of the registration process to keep smoke belchers off the streets.

The concern was raised Thursday by the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates (CCAA) in a summit hosted by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), to push for the strict implementation of the 1999 Clean Air Act.

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CCAA chair Leo Olarte called for the strict enforcement of the National Motor Vehicle Inspection System which, under the law, should lead to the closure of some 1,400 PETCs nationwide. He noted that many of these centers just make money out of so-called “nonappearance” cases, wherein private vehicles are given a clearance without actually being brought to the shop for tests. In effect, the centers issue fabricated test results.

He noted that the Land Transportation Office’s (LTO’s) monitoring station for PETCs is manned by a mere personnel of “three people” who have to view photos of vehicles supposedly proving that they had undergone tests at the centers. The photos could be as many as 5 million a year.

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The CCAA official also noted that even if a PETC is caught engaging in the illegal activity by the LTO, it faces a fine of only P30,000 for the first violation; another P30,000 and a 30-day suspension of its license for the second; and the revocation of the license for the third.

The P30,000 fine is small change compared to how much an unscrupulous PETC operator can make in a day, Olarte noted.

In the summit, EMB Director Jonas Leones acknowledged that Metro Manila’s air quality is in a “very serious” condition.

According to the bureau’s Air Quality Management Center, the level of total suspended particulates (TSP) rose to 136 micrograms per normal cubic meter in the first half of 2014, from 118 micrograms in 2012. TSP refers to the amount of solid particles, such as dust or soot, in the air.

Current TSP levels still exceed the guideline value of 90 micrograms per normal cubic meter set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Leones noted.

A recent World Bank study attributes the death of some 9,000 Filipinos each year to respiratory illness caused by exposure to air pollution, he said.

He pointed out that Environment Secretary Ramon Paje had pushed for the phaseout of vehicles 15 years old or above, as well as the shift to cleaner fuels.

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Leones also reported that the EMB would be improving its air quality monitoring system through the installation of new equipment that could make real-time readings of various pollutants—sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene and xylene— in Metro Manila and other urban centers.

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TAGS: CCAA, Coalition of Clean Air Advocates, EMB, environmental management bureau, Leo Olarte, Metro Manila, National Motor Vehicle Inspection System, PETCs, Private Emission Testing Centers
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