DOTr’s PUV modernization is reasonable, if laws enforced strictly

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Government’s public-utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, as launched recently, is reasonable and is welcomed by commuters and by most transport groups, provided all relevant laws are enforced strictly and the rampant “nonappearance” emission tests are stopped.

Its objectives of making vehicles “safer, more convenient, more comfortable and environment-friendly” are laudable and must be supported with target implementation within three years, starting next year.

Devil is in the details? The Clean Air Act of 1999, which is on its 17th anniversary on June 23, also had good intentions, but many of its provisions remain unimplemented, while supporting programs are not enforced properly, thus the absence of serious pressures on motorists to comply.

It is no wonder vehicle emissions have increased, despite 17 years of the law. In fact, the share of vehicle emissions of total air pollution in Metro Manila has increased from 70 percent over two decades ago, to 88 percent, and finally, to about 92 percent to 93 percent as of 2015, mainly because smokestack factories have moved to the countryside, while sales of four-wheeled vehicles are now hitting 400,000 units a year, majority of which end up in the metropolis.

Lax enforcement mainly happens in two areas. One is the local government’s road apprehension of smoke belchers, which is often “implemented with apprehension” as mostly drivers and operators, not knowing of any solution, find it instinctively convenient to maintain regular bribes than pay the penalties of not more than P2,000 for first offense, P2,000 to less than P4,000 for second offense and P4,000 to P6,000 or suspension of vehicle
registration for the third offense.

Another problem area is the alleged rampant “nonappearance” of the supposed mandatory emission testing with the Private Emission Testing Centers (PETCs). Here, one merely pays a fee without appearing for actual testing, and still get an “Emission Clearance Certificate”, indicating his or her vehicle passed emission standards.

Worst, it has a validity of a few months, which may be likened to a doctor giving a medical certificate, assuring one won’t have colds for the next three months, when he or she can catch colds the following day, depending on immunity levels and exposure to pollutive elements.

“Molar support” needed? The Department of Transportation (DOTr), therefore, along with other agencies and the local government units (LGUs), must figuratively put more teeth where their mouth is, or convert their words into action.

Although the main problem here is not with DOTr, but with the PETCs and the Anti-Smoke Belching Units of the LGUs. Actually, the problem emanates from the transport sector itself, which offers to “come across” as their instinctive strategy for survival in the law of the concrete jungle.

For them, it pays to maintain retainer fees or bribes rather than be penalized and face the risk of total suspension of vehicle registration, which can end their livelihood.

Education is more important. It is not healthy to be blaming any sector or entity, but what is important is for government agencies to get their act together, for one, and consult and partner with people’s organizations (transport sector), non-governmental organizations, academe, LGUs, etc., as provided
under Section 35 of the Clean Air Act on Linkage Mechanisms.

Section 35 is put into action through the Metro Manila Airshed Governing Board under Environmental Management Bureau-National Capital Region Director Vizminda Osorio, who has facilitated the consolidation of a work-in-progress education program, which implements one of the most vital missing link for Section 46 and Section 11.

Section 46 on penalties requires that apart from penalties on smoke belchers, violators must undergo seminars on emission control. Section 11 on “Air Quality Control Techniques” mandates government to make available all information on maintenance, best practices and technologies on pollution control.

Research and maintenance are vital too. Another unimplemented provision is Section 15 on Pollution Research, which includes applied research on technological options. Also, unimplemented fully is Section 21-D, mandating DOTr to implement an “inspection” and a “maintenance” program. So far, it has the Motor Vehicle Inspection Service, but lacks a “Vehicle Maintenance”, which is more important.

An example is the Metro Rail Transit, which conks out weekly only because it was not maintained properly for two years. Similarly, a person without maintenance of balanced diet, exercise, sunshine and sleep will later experience multiple ailments. Likewise, a brand new vehicle without maintenance can be pollutive in a few weeks time. Vehicle Maintenance centers can be set up as supplemental livelihood to make up for the costs and loan expenses the sector will incur with modernization.

Reasonable if able to reason. Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or Piston seems unreasonable when it went on strike for the sake of opposing, without offering alternatives. This is in contrast to groups, like Cubao-Rosario Operators and Drivers Association headed by Ramil Padrigo, and the National Jeepney Federation for Environmental Sustainable Transport by Ronald Baroidan, which are forming cooperatives, experimenting pollution- control technologies and searching for body designs, for compliance but avoiding total-vehicle replacement.

On an electric jeepney being too expensive at P1.6 million, resulting in amortizations on principal alone at P1,700 a day for a three-year payment, or P1,000+ for five years, which Transportation Assistant Secretary Elvie Medina reacted at a news conference as inaccurate, although computations are simply deduced from official pronouncements. Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board Chairman lawyer Martin B. Delgra III was reasonable and cool enough to argue “these things can be a work in progress as we can seek payment schedules of five to seven years”.

Banks, other than Land Bank, can also come in, and options are not limited to electric, as there are other alternatives, Delgra said, adding that on gadgets, like closed-circuit television, global positioning system,
Wi-fi, etc., are ideal targets, but will not to be implemented strictly, particularly for jeepneys.

What is important is to start and adjust in the process to what is tenable, Delgra concluded, appearing reasonable if you are able to reason.

 

E-mail: mikealunan@yahoo.com

 



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