LTO sued for polluting Metro Manila

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Don't hold your breath for cleaner air, as the DENR has been a laggard in adopting cleaner fuel standards. A 10-fold cut in sulfur emissions has been pushed back to 2016. INQUIRER file photo

Don’t hold your breath for cleaner air, as the DENR has been a laggard in adopting cleaner fuel standards. A 10-fold cut in sulfur emissions has been pushed back to 2016. INQUIRER file photo

A multisectoral coalition composed mostly of environmental advocates and transport groups has sued the Land Transportation Office (LTO) over the worsening air pollution in Metro Manila.

On Monday, the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates of the Philippines (CCAAP) filed a complaint for graft in the Office of the Ombudsman against LTO chief Alfonso Tan and LTO management information division officer in charge Rector Antiga.

Antiga was included in the lawsuit because his office—which was in charge of receiving all the emission tests results—did not double-check whether these were valid or had been falsified, the group said.

According to the CCAAP, the public officials failed to implement the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 and stop corruption in the motor vehicle emission testing process where even “no-shows” were  issued a certificate of emission compliance (CEC).

In their 11-page complaint, the coalition members asked the Ombudsman to place the respondents on preventive suspension.

DENR operatives use their smoke meter during a multisectoral, anti-smoke belching drive with members of the Anti-Smoke Belching Unit of the DOTC and the LTO. photo by Marianne Bermudez

DENR operatives use their smoke meter during a multisectoral, anti-smoke belching drive with members of the Anti-Smoke Belching Unit of the DOTC and the LTO. photo by Marianne Bermudez

“Massive graft and corruption in the motor vehicle emission testing process, [which is] under the control and supervision of the LTO, is a major reason why the air we all breathe is polluted,” CCAAP chair Dr. Leo Olarte said in a press statement.

According to him, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has reported that 80 percent of air pollution in the metropolis comes from motor vehicle emissions.

Olarte said the worsening air pollution not only in Metro Manila but also around the country was a “threat to the health and life of our people.”

The total suspended particulates (TSP) level—the international standard measure for air pollution—has reached 145 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm) in Metro Manila when the World Health Organization has pegged the acceptable TSP level at just 90 ug/Ncm, he added.

In the same statement, Zenaida Maranan, president of the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, said they had members who were asked to pay P500 at emission centers in exchange for getting a CEC without having their vehicles checked.

Another complainant, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations president Efren de Luna, criticized Tan for “failing to stop the massive and corrupt non-appearance emission racket under his nose.”

Another complainant in the graft case, CCAAP president Jojo Buerano, said that for more than a year, “we sent LTO letters, gave them tips [and] lists of ‘no-show’ incidents but they did not act on it.”

The coalition members said in their complaint that they even donated a computer software to detect anomalous emission center results and fake documents submitted to the LTO. However, the software “was disallowed and the checking discontinued,” raising suspicion that the agency itself may be profiting from the scam.

Sought for comment, Tan said he has yet to read the complaint “but I think our record against erring testing centers speaks for itself.”

In a text message to the Inquirer, Tan pointed out that he has so far revoked the licenses of 77 centers and fined 300 others compared to only 30 during his predecessor’s term.–Jaymee T. Gamil, With Deany Cheng, trainee



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