Implementation of road sharing scheme sought

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Monday, February 17, 2014

MANILA -- Clean air advocates asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday to order the government to implement a five-year old presidential order on the sharing of road space between pedestrians and motorists.

In a petition, the Carless People of the Philippines and Children of the Future called on the SC to issue a writ of kalikasan that would compel government to devote half of all roads to motorized vehicles and/or Filipino-made mass transport systems.

The other half, meanwhile, will be for covered sidewalks, all-weather bike lanes and urban gardens. It also wanted the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to allocate funds for the implementation of the road sharing scheme.

Section 9 of Executive Order 774 directs the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to coordinate with local government units and "guide them on the plan to transform the locomotion and transportation system to favor parties who have no motorized vehicles."

But the petitioners observed that this has not been the case, criticizing the government’s alleged failure to curb the release of poisonous gases by the "ever-increasing" number of motor vehicles in the roads.

"Respondents' failure to implement the laws has resulted in the continued pollution of the air, particularly that of Metro Manila. It is therefore a violation of the constitutional right of the people to good health. As a matter of fact, it may even be tantamount to the deprivation of life, and of the sources of life, by the government without due process of law," the petition stated.

The petitioners asked the High Court to order Cabinet officials and employees, starting with seven agencies led by the Office of the President, to reduce their fuel consumption by half and take public transportation for 50 percent of the time.

"Then, and only then, will they realize the daily purgatory that the ordinary people have to go through because of the lack of a good public transportation, proper sidewalks and bike lanes and of the poisonous air that they breathe," the petition read.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) should also demarcate and delineate the road right-of-way of all roads and sidewalks in the Philippines and remove all obstructions, if any, the petitioners said.

"The petition is a welcomed challenge for the government because if it succeeds, it will surely help boost the ongoing concerted effort to improve the quality of the air we breathe," said Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, one of the respondents.

Whatever the outcome of the petition, Paje said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will continue to strive to attain the "best air quality achievable" with the help of all the stakeholders.

Air quality data from the department's Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) indicate that the level of total suspended particulate (TSP) in Metro Manila in 2004 reached 171 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm).

It went down to129 ug/Ncm in 2009, then up again to 150 in 2010. Last year, TSP level further dipped to 118 ug/Ncm.

TSP refers to the amount of solid pollutants such as dust and soot in the air, with the annual guideline level at 90ug/Ncm, according to the DENR.

Paje said the government has already set several plans in motion to help meet the standards and regulations set by the Clean Air Act of 1999.

These include the use of vehicles consuming clean and alternative fuel, establishment of provincial bus terminals outside Metro Manila, installation of fully automated monitoring stations to measure air pollution levels around the capital.

President Benigno Aquino III as head of the Climate Change Commission, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Agriculture (DA), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), DPWH, DILG, DBM, Road Board and unnamed LGUs were also named as respondents in the petition. (Sunnex)

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