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by Karen E. Baydo
12 Nov 2009
In a move that could definitely bolster the country’s efforts to achieve better urban transportation systems and contribute to reducing air pollution, emissions of carbon dioxide and dependence on fossil fuel, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have developed the National Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) Strategy and Action Plan in consultation with various government agencies and stakeholders. On November 12, 20009 a forum was held at the Heritage Hotel, Pasay City, to present and discuss the National EST Strategy and Action Plan of the Philippines to various stakeholders. Officials of local government units (LGUs) of highly urbanized cities, city planners, government officials, representatives from the transport sector, academe and civil society attended the whole-day forum. The holding of the forum was timely as the country celebrates the Clean Air Month every November by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1109 issued by former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1997.
But the forum’s timeliness is above all else borne out of the fact that it was held weeks before the start of the United Nation Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the meeting of global leaders to address the problem of climate change, including the setting of targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by countries. Sophie Punte, Executive Director of Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) linked air pollution to climate change and said that black carbon or the black smoke emitted by smoke-belching vehicles worsens the warming of the earth. Thus, when air pollution is lessened, the climate change problem is also addressed. Jose Regin F. Regidor, Director of the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines, acknowledged that the development of the EST strategy was also made to address the problem of climate change. He said during the forum that one of the overall goals of the EST strategy is “to reduce the annual growth rate of energy consumption and associated greenhouse gases from the transport sector.”
With the ever increasing urbanization and motorization of the Philippines, the development of a national EST strategy is a most welcome news. DOTC Assistant Secretary Dante Lantin said that vehicle registration statistics indicate a nationwide average growth rate of 7.5% annually for the period 2000-2008. As emphasized by CAI-Asia’s Bert Fabian, given the explosive increase in vehicle ownership in the Philippines, business as usual scenarios would mean continued high emissions of particulate matter and carbon dioxide and will also result to high levels of fuel consumption, continued traffic congestion and traffic accidents. He also said that exposure to high levels of air pollution cause morbidity and mortality. He maintained that the solution lies in an integrated framework like EST which takes into account and supports urban/transport planning, public transport and non-motorized transport, cleaner and more efficient vehicles, and freight and logistics. It must be noted that Administrative Order 254 which mandates the DOTC to lead in formulating a national EST for the Philippines states in no uncertain terms that the Task Group Fossil Fuel (TGFF) [which under Executive Order 774 the DOTC is to lead] “reform the transport sector to lower the consumption of fossil fuels.” Towards this end, the TGFF is mandated to establish a system which shall favor non-motorized locomotion and collective transportation system like walking, bicycling, and man-powered mini-train.
Several cities in the country are now working on implementing their own EST strategy. Some of them were recognized during the forum for their examples of good practices of EST like the cities of Cebu, Marikina, Cagayan de Oro, San Fernando (La Union), and Iligan. As shown by these cities, EST is a timely and doable solution to overcome the challenges of urban transport such as traffic congestion and accidents, air pollution, inadequate transport system, deteriorating quality of life and oil dependence.