By Atty. Joey D. Lina
November is supposed to be Clean Air Month, but it seems only a few people are aware of it.
It was in October of 1997 that then President Fidel Ramos signed Proclamation 1109 declaring the month of November of every year as “Clean Air Month through National Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Consciousness” and calling for a “nationwide awareness program that will promote the need to curb exhaust pollutants from on-road motor vehicles by maintaining them in good working condition.”
“Whereas, the pollution of the air in rapidly urbanizing areas, particularly in Metro Manila, the home of about 9.5 million people as of 1995 estimates, has reached levels that adversely affect human health and public welfare and calls for more aggressive efforts to reduce emissions in the air,” the proclamation read.
Now, exactly 20 years after Proclamation 1109 was issued, can it be said that “more aggressive efforts to reduce emissions in the air” have been in effect?
Or, has the situation worsened? Considering the sizeable growth in number of vehicles in Metro Manila, one could think so. In 1997, 43% of the 2.6 million vehicles nationwide were in Metro Manila. In 2015, the MMDA said Metro Manila alone had 2.5 million registered vehicles. Add to that other vehicles from nearby regions that regularly come to the metropolis.
“Whereas, motor vehicles which were estimated to have produced almost 65 million metric tons of pollutants in 1993, account for the majority of total airborne pollutants in Metro Manila,” the 1997 proclamation said. Now, with the number of vehicles in Metro Manila more than double, and with the seeming lack of efficient efforts to curb air pollution, it’s no wonder if the situation has worsened.
“Although technological advances in engine design, pollution devices and fuels have continued to develop, the motorist’s neglect of his vehicle’s maintenance remains a major contributor to the rise in vehicle emission,” the proclamation further read. Though stated in 1997, the message still rings true to this day.
Not only does it lead to air pollution, the neglect of proper maintenance also causes a host of other problems that results in fatal road crashes, according to Clean Air Philippines president Manuel Galvez and road safety expertEngr. Alberto Suansing, who were studio guests last Sunday in my Teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan (DZMM 8 to 9 a.m. Sundays).
Galvez reiterated what are well-known facts: 80% of air pollution in Metro Manila comes from unabated emission of toxic fumes from motor vehicles and such air pollution is a serious threat to public health as the populace is exposed to deadly ailments like cancer, asthma, and other respiratory diseases, including cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke.
Suansing said that lack of proper maintenance of vehicles, coupled with aggressive driving behavior, have led to road crashes with a daily toll of 34 deaths all over the country.He said the proper term for a road tragedy is “road crash” and not “accident” because it is supposedly preventable.
Indeed, it’s quite often that not a day goes by without a report of a truck crashing due to failing brakes. Even worse are buses that cause multiple deaths to passengers and pedestrians, and the culprit almost always lies in faulty brakes or other factors that could have been prevented with proper vehicle maintenance.
The road tragedy last Oct. 26 that killed five people and injured 14 others when a truck loaded with steel beams crashed into nine other vehicles along the San Mateo-Batasan Road in Quezon City could have been prevented had there been proper maintenance on its brake system that reportedly failed.
That mishap was certainly tragic, but what was equally tragic was the news that came out on the same day: The Land Transportation Office has admitted that its Motor Vehicle Inspection System (MVIS) nationwide is not fully functional to evaluate road worthiness of vehicles.
According to an ABS-CBN report, the LTO presently relies on visual checking or ocular inspection of brakes and suspension system, wheel alignment, and other safety factors of vehicles because the equipment supposed to be used in the inspection are no longer functional.
The situation is a far cry from the ideal MVIS which, according to Suansing and Galvez, should consist of 66 parameters of above carriage and under chassis inspection to determine road worthiness of vehicles. They said the ideal number of MVIS units should be about 400 spread across all regions of the country.
Suansing also cited the need to create a National Transport Safety Board to “guide government in formulating the right policies instead of resorting to knee-jerk reactions” when road tragedies of an enormous scale occur.
It’s indisputable that strict law enforcement, driver discipline, and proper maintenance of vehicles to ensure road worthiness are essential. Unless more aggressive efforts toward these are undertaken, it’s still a long way to road safety and cleaner air.
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