The Economics of Implementing the Clean Air Act.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, November 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Economics of Implementing the Clean Air Act.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


WHEN the Clean Air Act was passed into law in 1999, one requirement was the setting up of Private Emission Centers or PETCs in various parts of the country. As many may know, 70 percent of air pollution comes from vehicles. Only the pro-environment among the private sector groups favorably responded and met all requirements including the construction of the needed facilities. But those who complied are now beginning to realize the financial burden of being a good citizen. Frequent postponement and uncertainties (the decision until two weeks ago was to start implementation in 1993) have been costly. According to the president of the PETC Owners Association, they had to invest at least R2 million per lane before they are able to obtain the authority to operate by the Department of Transportation and Communication.

The recent plan of both the Senate and the House as expressed by Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Jose de Venecia is to suspend or postpone the implementation of the Act through a Congressional resolution. This was the result of effective lobbying by Energy Secretary Vicente Perez Jr. who cited oil supply security as the primary reason for the need to defer or suspend implementation of the Clean Air Act. If implemented, they state, the only alternative is to import the specified quality - unleaded gasoline which is more costly and limited in supply. It is projected that gasoline prices would increase - substantially by R1.50 per liter if suppliers import the product or about half the cost if a blending process is employed. Another reason given for suspension is the threat posed by the impending USIraq War which is seen to limit the supply of oil.

But environmentalists such as the House Vice-Chairman of Ecology and principal author of the Clean Air Act, Rep. Nereus Acosta and Mindanao Business Council president, Joji Ilagan-Bian argue otherwise. Bian cites the heavy investments of PETC owners who have taken great risks even though they realize that their investments cannot be fully recovered. Even if the measure is implemented, the Motor Vehicle Inspection System would eventually take over in 2003 which means that the PETC owners will have to recover their investments for only a year. But more than this economic cost, according to Rep. Acosta, is the anticipated social cost that the population would have to pay in terms of respiratory diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and mental diseases. Studies have shown that air pollution in Manila has reached a critical level which is life-threatening. …

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