THIS year, the Filipino consumer has taken quite a beating with the passing of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act as well as the global inflation. As the prices of fuel and basic commodities have shot up, car sales have gone down. Even profligate Filipinos know when to pinch their pennies.
How to help average wage earners cope with the tidal wave of price increases? Our government, through the Department of Energy (DoE), has a brilliant idea, and that is to allow the supposedly cheaper (but certainly dirtier) Euro2 fuels to be imported and sold again in our market — two years after they were effectively retired by their cleaner Euro4 counterparts. To think that the arrival of Euro4 gasoline and diesel in the country was already more than a decade late (Europe switched to this emissions standard in 2005). Talk about “the best and the brightest.”
In case you’re not familiar, European emissions standards are the globally accepted method of determining the maximum vehicle exhaust emissions allowed in a given country. It all started with Euro1, which is the filthiest, and steadily progressed to the highest grade that is Euro6, which was adopted in Europe in 2014. As a fuel product climbs the ladder of this emissions yardstick, it gets less carbon monoxide, less hydrocarbon, less nitrogen oxide and less particulate matter. Which means it becomes significantly cleaner, which is better for both the planet and the human race.
The ultimate goal of every world leader not named Donald Trump is to kick everyone’s dependence on air-polluting fossil fuel in hopes of reversing the global warming that is now causing our weather to either bake or drown us. This goal should be priority number one on every government’s agenda — more than economic ones, as a matter of fact. We have no use for a strong economy if the earth is already crumbling beneath our feet.
But then, our very smart DoE officials want to throw all of that out their soot-covered window — ostensibly to help the poor among us survive the recent barrage of price hikes. Which is basically telling the underprivileged: “We seriously want you to be able to feed and clothe yourselves so that you’ll at least look decent when you die of bronchitis or emphysema.”
The truly cruel part of this story — that part which readers of this paper are probably indifferent to — is the fact that it’s the destitute who are sure to suffer from the DoE’s plan. The rich (but I’m sure you already know this) can easily fend for themselves just by acquiring air filter systems at home and even on the road. To hell with pollution: They’re protected by virtual gas masks. Meanwhile, those who spend most of their waking hours outside (the vendors, the jeepney drivers, the traffic officers, the street sweepers) because they’re not qualified for an air-conditioned office job? So long, fellas… it’s been nice knowing you all.
I could understand if it had been the Department of Finance or the Senate or even the President that made the proposal to bring back Euro2 fuels. But it’s the Department of Energy, folks. Pause for a minute and let that sink in. The very people — together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources — who should be helping ensure that you and I breathe clean air are the same ones authorizing the return of inferior petrol and diesel. Tell me, what chance has this country’s environment got?
By even having the gall to imagine this whole lunacy, our Energy officials are practically teaching our citizens (and their kids) to never take environment protection seriously. Upgrading to Euro4 is a joke, after all. Let’s just roll the dice and continue gambling with nature.
Frankly, I don’t want to be here when Mother Nature finally collects our chips.