Smoke belchers do most damage as Metro sleeps
“It’s as if there’s a New Year’s Eve celebration every night.”
Volunteers who recently joined government enforcers for nighttime antismoke belching operations described the extent of the air pollution caused by vehicles in Metro Manila as something close to the Jan. 1 early-morning haze caused by a barrage of fireworks.
“All those smoke belchers that are banned go out at night,” said Dr. Mike Aragon, vice president of the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates (CCAA), whose members joined the operations for two nights last week on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.
“Unless you live in a space suit, as long as we live in Metro Manila everybody becomes an unwilling victim of air pollution,” Aragon said.
On the first night, Nov. 19, 50 vehicles were apprehended for smoke belching on Commonwealth, Aragon said. The number got bigger the following night.
Most of the apprehended vehicles were public utility buses, jeepneys and taxis, he noted.
The CCAA would continue joining the operations conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group and Metro Manila Development Authority as long as it can, he added.
“We want to help the government so it can perform its mandate. But this is just a small part of the solution. The real solution lies in regular vehicle maintenance supported by real tests and inspections,” Aragon said.
Chaired by Leo Olarte, the CCAA has launched a campaign appealing to President Aquino to compel the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), particularly the Land Transportation Office (LTO), to strictly subject all vehicles to inspection and emission testing as required under the Clean Air Act of 1999.
Eighty percent of air pollution in Metro Manila comes from smoke belching vehicles, according to the DENR.
“Motor vehicles undergo and pass emission tests on paper, but in reality most of them are never tested at all,” the CCAA said in a letter to the President on Nov. 17.
The group said the practice of vehicle owners not presenting their units to LTO-accredited testing centers, yet obtaining doctored clearances for a fee, had become so pervasive. The practice is simply known among motorists as ‘’nonappearance’.’
Olarte said the DTI had also failed to implement a comprehensive motor vehicle maintenance compliance inspection and testing system that is required by law.
“The major solution to clean Metro Manila’s polluted air is regular motor vehicle maintenance supported by a real inspection test,” he stressed.
The CCAA said it was still confident that with the government’s “full support,” the air pollution level in the capital could be reduced from the current “unacceptable” level of 136 ug/Ncm TSP (total suspended particulates) to the minimum standard of 90 ug/Ncm TSP by June 30, 2016.
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