Wednesday, September 02, 2009
The air in Metropolitan Manila is so filthy that one can actually see the dirty particles hanging in the atmosphere like black snow. This griminess of the air comes as a result of the steady urbanization of Metro Manila, an enormous city of 17 towns and charter cities with a total population of 9.93 million as of National Statistics Office’ 2000 census, a population density of 158 persons per hectare and per capita Gross Development Product of roughly PhP60,000.1 One urban development trait that Metro Manila manifests is the escalating motorization and transportation demand, one which, as aforementioned, causes the looming problem that is transport pollution.
According to Japan International Cooperation Agency which conducted the Metro Manila Urban Transportation Integration Study in 1996, 59 persons out of a thousand own cars.2 1.4 million vehicles (or 33% of the total Philippine registry of 4.2 million vehicles) are registered in Metro Manila, of which 33% comprise the diesel-fueled ones, from jeepneys to passenger utilities to buses.3 This volume is accountable for the heavy emission of gases that contribute to the worsening condition of air pollution in Metro Manila. The exposure of the population to this vehicular emission makes up for the increasing cases of various respiratory ailments, deteriorating health and, worse, death in the populace. Likewise, this type of pollution threatens to efface the environment with mutation on living things and contamination of the supposedly safe air people breathe.
The Philippines’ national capital region is indicated to have a decadent air quality by virtue of the heightened presence of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, oxidants, and carbon monoxide way above the perimeters of the World Health Organization.4 Mobile sources like diesel-fueled vehicles and tricycles emit particulate matters which are deemed the gravest pollutant in Metro Manila for the last two decades. To be statistical about it, the total suspended particulates got concentrated 100% in Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ pollution monitoring stations beginning 1989. These observed TSP surpassed the National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Value of 90 microgram/N.cu.m.5 Despite the Clean Air Act, TSP remain a chief pollutant in the metropolis.
Carbon Monoxide is another key pollutant in this megacity. While DENR’s monitoring stations rarely indicate CO’s exceeding beyond the ambient quality standard of 9 ppm,6 there is an indication based on the few data collected that ambient concentration of CO is possible to go beyond the standard from time to time. Because the monitoring stations are situated next to road traffic, CO is determined to have originated mostly from vehicles.
Another major pollutant is Nitrogen Dioxide. According to data collected by Asian Development Bank-sponsored Vehicular Emission Control Planning Study in 1991 and 1992 and by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Filter Badge Survey in 1998, the values average for NO2 is under 0.08 ppm—only 0.05 ppm7—but this estimation sees an increasing trend as the growing volume of Manila-based vehicles makes emissions that aggravate the air pollution in the city.
Meanwhile, sulfur dioxide (SO2) shows a worsening trend of ambient concentration undervalues of 0.05 ppm as opposed to 0.08 ppm, according to samples from DENR’s monitoring stations whereas lead (Pb) concentration has been minimized—from 1.282 mcg/Ncm down to 0.043mcg/Ncm—since 1987, owing to the gradual phasing out of Leaded gasoline in the metropolis.8
All these pollutants which come from vehicular emissions endanger Metro Manila’s environment at-large. According to a 2000 JSPS-sponsored perception survey by Tokyo Institute of Technology, 70+% out of 490 respondents from cities of Makati and Quezon expressed dissatisfaction with roadside air quality and recommended that the government do something to improve air quality in roadside, residential and in-vehicle environment.9 Another survey in 2001—that conducted by DENR amongst public utility vehicle drivers, operators and industry holders—confirmed this negative belief: 72% are conscious of air pollution, only 28% know the effort of the government to curb pollution and only 39% have awareness about the 1999 Clean Air Act.10
If this ill condition of the metropolitan atmosphere prevails, the incidence of respiratory diseases, environmental mutation and related risks will steadily climb. With the volume of mobile utilities continually expanding as rapid urbanization takes place, vehicular emission will continuously contribute to air pollution and soon, Metro Manila will not figure among the world’s dirtiest cities but WILL BE its filthiest city, unless the government strictly reinforces its program to control transport pollution. The Philippine Air Act of 1999 is one significant government move. By having vehicles renew registration only upon submitting certificate of compliance to emission standards as authorized in testing centers by the Department of Transportation and Communication and the Land Transportation Office, the government through its arm DENR is able to implement the standardization of motor emissions, which becomes helpful in reducing transport pollution.
Another significant program to which transport operators must have strict compliance is the implementation of fuel standards by the government arm Department of Energy. The DOE is enjoined to specify all kinds of fuel and relevant products, regulate fuel additive use and banning of leaded gasoline. Corollary to this, the DOE attempts to promote and eventually implement alternative motor fuels by developing standards for compressed natural gas Autogas and coco-methyl ester.11
The proliferation of non-governmental organizations aimed at redeeming environmental consciousness for Manila citizens encourages many sectors in the society to take heed of the campaign to start cleaning the air. Media giant ABS-CBN, for instance, has an environmental arm named “Bantay Kalikasan” which advocates programs such as information dissemination and utilization of telecommunications to report pollution-causing motors in highways. Meanwhile, the Firefly Brigade is a group of cyclists that promotes the use of bicycles for transportation instead of riding high-emission vehicles.
Finally, the banning of and assigning of alternate routes for trucks and other vehicles at designated times and places in the metropolis are important ways managing transportation demand. Odd-Even Scheme is one such example of this transport emission-reducing program. Also, the continued operation of the Philippine National Railway and Light Railway Trains and the recent operation of the Metrostar Railway Trains not only minimize the costliness and time consumption of city transportation but also promote the non-use of gas fuel, as the LRT and MRT are run by the combined wonders of machine, magnetism and electricity.
The transport pollution is a major concern for all living in the National Capital Region. Studies have shown that Metro Manila air is not getting any cleaner, so an organized act to advocate zero/low-emission transportation must come at hand before it is too late to ward off the particulate matters and like pollutants poisoning our lungs.
Filter Badge Survey (Tokyo: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 1998).
Metro Manila Urban Transportation Integration Study. (Tokyo: Japan International Cooperation Agency, 1996).
National Air Quality Status Report. (Manila: Environmental Management Bureau, 2003).
Philippines Environment Monitor 2002. (World Bank, 2002).
Vehicular Emission Control Planning in Metro Manila. (Asian Development Bank, 1992).
Vergel, Karl. Urban Transportation and the Environment in Metro Manila: Programs and Initiatives for Clean Air. (Tokyo: Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2004).
__________ and Yai T. “Outline of Microscopic Traffic Simulation.” In: Metro Manila: Towards a Sustainable Future-Impact Analysis of Metropolitan Policies for Development and Environmental Conservation. (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the University of the Philippines Press. 2002).
1 Metro Manila Urban Transportation Integration Study. (Tokyo: Japan International Cooperation Agency, 1996)
4 Vehicular Emission Control Planning in Metro Manila. (Asian Development Bank, 1992) and Filter Badge Survey (Tokyo: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 1998).
8 National Air Quality Status Report. (Manila: Environmental Management Bureau, 2003).
9 Vergel, Karl and Yai T. “Outline of Microscopic Traffic Simulation.” In: Metro Manila: Towards a Sustainable Future-Impact Analysis of Metropolitan Policies for Development and Environmental Conservation. (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the University of the Philippines Press. 2002).
10 Philippines Environment Monitor 2002. (World Bank, 2002).
11 Vergel, Karl. Urban Transportation and the Environment in Metro Manila: Programs and Initiatives for Clean Air. (Tokyo: Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2004)