Watchdog Appeals To Pres. Duterte: Allocate Food Rations To Displaced Jeepney Drivers

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Amid the mounting pressure from some transport groups and politicians to allow old jeepneys back on the road, an environmental watchdog sought President Rodrigo Duterte’s help to direct government to initiate a temporarily program to feed the displaced jeepney drivers while they are still out of work due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

“We are appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to direct government agencies to work with the private sector to initiate a temporary food rationing program for all displaced jeepney drivers (and their families) until government finds another job for them in the new normal Philippines,” Clean Air Philippines Movement, Inc. (CAPMI) president Atty. Leo O. Olarte, M.D said in a statement yesterday .

Olarte, a medical doctor, trial lawyer and past president of Philippine Medical Association (PMA), also appealed to the leadership of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to rightfully show empathy to the sad plight of the displaced jeepney drivers and operators as they asked the department to remain steadfast on its sacred duty to strictly enforce (with malice to non) the motor vehicle emission standards under Republic Act 8749 (Clean Air Act) and Section16 (vehicle roadworthiness) of Republic Act 4136 (LTO law) in order to protect precious human lives and limbs for the greater interest of all Filipinos and not just a few.

“Air pollution and road accidents or crashes kills people. Fortunately, both can also be prevented. In 2017, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) said 1.25 million people worldwide died yearly due to road crashes. In 2018, W.H.O. also showed that 7 million people died yearly from exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollution that causes stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, respiratory infections, including pneumonia, diabetes and hypertension. Most of these diseases mentioned are medically recognized also as deadly pre-existing conditions or co-morbidities that if present as complications in a Covid-19 infected patient can possibly lead to the patient’s untimely death. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) more than 80% of air pollution in Metro Manila comes from unabated emissions of motor vehicles in the metropolis. After the lockdowns, let us not allow anymore motor vehicles that are not road worthy to again go back to our streets so that we can maintain and sustain the clean and safe air status in our cities today because we all stayed at home.” Dr. Olarte continued.

“Air pollution weakens the human immune system therefore making a person’s resistance to fight the COVID-19 infection also weak. Scientific studies shows that droplets or micro droplets plays a crucial role in the spread of COVID infection. Other studies suggests that the particulate matter (PM) in air pollution can act as a possible factor in the spread of d coronavirus when these PM serves as carriers of the virus that hitches or rides on the bigger size PM as they float in the air. These studies were presented during a World Bank webinar on air pollution and COVID-19 held last June 11, 2020,” Olarte revealed.

“The barometer to scientifically determine the roadworthiness of motor vehicles (in the Philippines) is the new and automated MOTOR VEHICLE INSPECTION SYSTEM (MVIS) of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and its authorized Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers (PMVIC) nationwide. DOTr-LTO has so far authorized 150 PMVICs and plans more of these centers in the countryside soon. Let this be the deciding factor on whether a motor vehicle is truly worthy to be allowed to ply our roads or not. This is the fair way to do it because the new automated MVIS has zero human intervention to avoid corruption that plague LTO motor vehicle testing process in the past. During the pandemic, let us refrain from trying to solve a problem by offering another problem as the magic solution. If the immediate problem of our displaced jeepney drivers is hunger then we appeal to our government and also the private sector to temporary ration them food so they can survive the transition period until government finds a sustainable way to re-innovate or re-invent all of them back to the workforce. Allowing public utility vehicles (PUVs) that are not road worthy to operate again on our streets will definitely worsen our Covid -19 problems because the deadly air pollution that these smoke-belchers will again emit (in the air that we all breathe) will surely weaken everybody’s immune system without an exemption. A strong immune system that will kill the coronavirus is our most effective defense against the SARS –CoV2 virus infection until a vaccine can be discovered and injected to all our more than 100 million population countrywide,” Olarte finally said.