Change is in the air

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Tailpipe Talk


By Kap Maceda Aguila

THE impassioned, very personal declaration of Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arthur P. Tugade was but one of the highlights of particularly eventful week for the government agency. “You know where I am coming from? I lost my 11-year-old son because of asthma,” the secretary recently shared. “This country is a polluted country. That was more than 30 years ago. Imagine how more polluted this country is now. That is why I hate (smog). That is why I hate smoke belchers. We need to modernize our PUVs now. We need to save our environment now.”

An Asian Development Bank report released in December 2017, titled “Pathways to Low-Carbon Development for the Philippines,” said the country’s transport sector in 2010 generated an astounding 23.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions — accounting for a 15% share of the total. If trends continue, “annual emissions from road transport vehicles are expected to increase to 48.8 metric tons by 2030 and to 139.9 metric tons by 2050.” According to the same document, the Philippine auto industry mustered a consolidated annual average growth rate of 5.7% from 2007 to 2013. Of course, the “drastic increase vehicle population has led to a deteriorating traffic situation in the country, especially in urban centers,” aside from worsening air quality.

Secretary Tugade made his plea at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) as he scrutinized motor vehicle inspection system (MVIS) prototypes proffered by Polish suppliers. Government is set to acquire 26 mobile MVIS units as part of its public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, rolling out this year. Over the course of three years, 15-year-old public transportation will be gradually phased out, replaced by vehicles up to code — either electric ones or Euro4-compliant, with added features such as closed-circuit television cameras, GPS system, fare collection system, cameras, and even Wi-Fi connectivity. That said, adequate MVIS deployment and coverage will ensure roadworthiness of existing transportation regardless of age — a nonnegotiable minimum. The end goal in the near future is safer, more convenient conveyance that is also environment-friendly.

A number of transport groups have been up in arms — even staging a number of crippling strikes last year — over what they insist is an anti-poor move by government, despite state financial instruments being made available — specifically through Development Bank of the Philippines-administered assistance package worth P1.5 billion for transport firms and cooperatives.

Nonetheless, government has veritably stepped on the gas pedal with a concerted drive against clunkers and smoke belchers. Last Jan. 10, the so-called “Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” campaign spearheaded by the DoTr, in cooperation with the iACT, or the Interagency Council for Traffic, was launched to apprehend offending vehicles. The multiagency iACT is composed of the DoTr, LTO, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group.

The first day of the campaign netted more than 250 violators (mostly on EDSA). Drivers were asked to report to the LTO within 24 hours for a more detailed inspection of their vehicles. The on-road inspections were staged in various parts of the metropolis three times a day — with one occurring at night to spot vehicles with lighting issues. Improperly dressed drivers were also apprehended. Additionally, DoTr Undersecretary for Roads Thomas M. Orbos also warned smoke test inspection centers that certify offending vehicles will have their license revoked.

Meanwhile, iACT communications and administrative head Elmer Argaño told BusinessWorld that some unscrupulous drivers have tried to steer clear of inspection points by cutting trips — happening on thoroughfares such as Katipunan and Aurora Avenues. However, local government unit operatives in Marikina City were able to apprehend these offenders, he added. As of 4 p.m. on Jan. 15, iACT had been able to “flag down, ticket, issue summons, and apprehend for various road safety and road worthiness issues close to 1,000 public and private vehicles [with] 80% of the offending vehicles being public utility jeepneys mostly [having] defective or missing parts, or belching smoke.”

Mr. Argaño also revealed the iACT conducts stationary/fixed monitoring on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, then embarks on mobile operations Tuesdays and Thursdays.