‘Bring blue skies back to cities’

By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer June 05,2019

We can definitely improve public transportation more. The vehicle manufacturers’ role is to develop low-emission vehicles and the driving public can practice eco-driving to gain fuel savings.
Atty. Glynda E.
Clean Air Asia’s deputy
executive director

Despite the almost “zero-visibility” of finding the right answers to the nagging air pollution problem hounding the Philippines’ capital city for decades, there might now be a clear solution in sight. And if you ask Clean Air Asia, that window of opportunity has opened up with the advent of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Clean Air Asia made it clean and clear that hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) are just the start of a long “detoxification” process that would involve not just conscientious motorists buying, owning, and driving emissions-free cars, but entire societies and the government as well.

In her speech at the May 29 Toyota Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technology Conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, Clean Air Asia’s deputy executive director lawyer Glynda E. Bathan-Baterina revealed the roles of the different sectors of society to finally realize a highly urbanized center free from air pollution.

“We can definitely improve public transportation more. The vehicle manufacturers’ role is to develop low-emission vehicles and the driving public can practice eco-driving to gain fuel savings. The government can also supply cleaner energy to power electrified vehicles. The government can strengthen vehicle emissions standards and consider carbon-based taxation at the right time, and improve fuel specifications. We are doing good by having low-sulfur fuels, but the rest of the world and Asia are moving towards ultra low-sulfur fuels.”

Clean Air Asia, an international non-government organization headquartered in Manila, maintains offices in Beijing and New Delhi, and country networks in Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Its mission is “to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Asia, and contribute to a livable and healthy Asia for all people, both now and in the future.”

Bathan-Baterina said that she has been with Clean Air Asia since the start in 2001, when it was established through the collaboration of 60 organizations, led by the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and USAID.

“I hope that, together, we can make low-carbon transportation a reality in the Philippines, so we can bring blue skies back to our cities,” said Bathan-Baterina.

Bathan-Baterina said that several factors contribute to air pollution, but in urban areas, such as in the National Capital Region, motor vehicles are
major sources.

“In NCR, several monitoring stations of our environment department show exceedances of our PM2.5 and PM10 National Ambient Air Quality guideline values which are less stringent than the World Health Organization values.”

In 2016, Clean Air Asia released results of a joint study with the Manila Observatory, and another NGO called KKK (Kaibigan ng Kaunlaran at Kalikasan).

“We inventoried emissions from vehicles and area sources of pollution and we modelled PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations in Metro Manila, considering meteorological conditions.” Bathan added that NGOs like Clean Air Asia play an important role, and the endeavor has been just one of the projects that the group is implementing, together with government agencies, academic and civil society partners in the Philippines.

Bathan-Baterina revealed, “For motor vehicles, it is clear that air pollution levels are high along major roads. Exposure to air pollution in these areas increases our risk to its health impact.”

Other sources also contribute to air pollution in Metro Manila, such as industrial activities and “area sources” such as “burning, cooking and grilling in small establishments.” She showed Inquirer Motoring a chart of the annual average PM2.5 and PM10 modeled concentration from vehicles in Metro Manila, and the annual average PM 2.5 and PM10 modeled concentration from all sources in Metro Manila.

64,000 deaths in 2017

The Philippines has been among the top 10 countries with the highest mortality attributable to air pollution in 2017, according to the “State of Global Air 2019” report by the US-based Health Effects Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Bathan-Baterina quoted the study, pointing to the 64,000 people who died prematurely due to air pollution-related causes. “Recent health studies have shown growing evidence that air pollution could be linked to adverse birth outcomes, impairment of cognitive functions in adults, and neuro-developmental anomalies in children, and diabetes. Air pollution has been directly linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infection, diabetes, lung cancer, ischemic heart disease, and stroke.”

But positive steps and measures taken by the auto industries, she said, have given rise to optimism. “Now there is reason to take action by reducing air pollution. The solutions are known and are proven effective based on the experiences of
other countries. But we still have quite a long way to go. Based on the 2015 studies conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), we need to catch up with the rest of the world, which has almost doubled the fuel economy of its vehicles in the region,” she stressed.

“Now, as the world looks to EVs to contribute to reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector, we need to ensure that our power generation is from clean sources, otherwise, we will just be transferring the pollution from the urban areas to the rural areas.”

She continued, “Government can promote cleaner technologies, such as a whole range of EVs, by providing incentives. Sri Lanka is a good example. I have never visited such a developing country like Sri Lanka that has more Toyota Priuses than I can see here in the Philippines.”

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