Manuel Villar, Speaker of the House, has taken a lead on the Clean Air Act by asking the Philippine public to support measures to:

  • reduce sulphur content in diesel fuel
  • phase-out lead in petrol
  • end incineration of waste

These measures will be implemented in 2001. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been given this year to develop its implementation strategy.

Opposition to the bill from some members of the Philippine legislature has centred on accusations that adequate funds are not available to introduce the Act. Last autumn, Villar denied this was the case, pointing out that the Asian Development Bank is providing some of the funding. Nevertheless, the Philippine Congress cut air quality funding to the DENR as part of its Philippine Peso 60 billion ($US1.48 billion) slash of the proposed 2000 budget of P651 billion ($US16.05 billion).

President Estrada has stepped in and, according to the Philippine Star newspaper, he has restored all funding.

Not surprisingly, the DENR is a firm supporter of the Clean Air Act and its officials have been at pains to remind the public that motor vehicles, not industry, are the primary cause of air pollution in urban areas such as Manila. The department’s eight air quality monitoring stations in Manila have shown that between 80 and 90% of the capital city’s air pollution is the result of vehicle emissions. Figures from 1998 show that metropolitan Manila has approximately 1.2 million motorised vehicles.

Both the DENR and Villar have been seeking to raise the public’s awareness of the dangers posed by air pollution, particularly the links between lower intelligence and lead emissions.

As officials plan the elimination of lead in petrol and the reduction of sulphur in diesel, attention is also focusing on petrol prices. A recent rise in the cost of petrol, with threats from some oil companies that a second rise may come soon, has led to public outcry. President Estrada has personally requested that oil companies hold back from a second price increase.

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