uring the time of Jose
Rizal, the country was known as the "Pearl of the Orient." The
Spaniards, despite all their faults, built some amazingly beautiful
cities in these "Islas." Clear water ran through the Pasig river and
life was wholesome for all who lived here.
Compare that idyllic past
with today's Metro Manila and the difference is striking. The entire
metropolis seems to be enveloped by a dark gray patina of soot. The city
looks drab and dirty. Travelling around the city, one notices that dirt,
grime, and weather stains mar the surfaces of buildings and homes alike.
Look around and there are almost no vistas with crisp vibrant colors.
Everything just looks old, drab, and gray.
Thanks for the most
part to the Filipino's love for diesel engines. Passenger jeepneys and
buses and many private vehicles run on diesel fuel. Diesels despite
being heavy polluters are the
engines of choice because of their fuel economy, plus the fact that in
the Philippines diesel fuel is less expensive than unleaded gasoline.
Then there's also the
two-stroke motorcycle engine favored by Pinoy tricycle drivers.
Two-stroke engines are even worse polluters than diesels because of the
amount of oily soot they spew out of their tailpipe.
According to the World
Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills around 7 million people
worldwide every year. And a recent study by physicists at the University of
California, Berkeley estimates that in China alone pollution kills 4,000
Chinese each day. And the undeniable fact is that Metro Manila, like
most major cities in the Philippines is now dirty and polluted. We are
no longer the glistening "pearl" we once were.
has played a major role in turning our cities into what they are now, it
will take time and a major upheaval in ingrained cultural and religious
attitudes to address that problem. However, there are quick, and
relatively straightforward steps that can be taken to ameliorate the
worsening pollution problem.
First: raise the price
of diesel fuel to reflect its actual cost for polluting the
environment. Also include in the calculation the healthcare costs for the
millions who are sick as a direct result of breathing in diesel-laden
emissions. The price of diesel and all other dirty fuels should be
raised and made significantly higher than unleaded gasoline or other
Second: phase out the
two-stroke engines of tricycles. Local and National governing bodies
like the Land Transportation Office (LTO) can disallow registration and
licensing of those type of engines for use on public roads. Local
governments can also withhold business permits for tricycle groups or
associations that use two-stroke engines. These changes should be phased
in over time to allow tricycle owners to more easily adopt to the new
representatives to global conferences on the environment have been
continually harping on developed countries to pollute less. But the sad
fact is that although the Philippines is not a top global polluter, we
seem to be doing dishearteningly little to clean up our own dirty environment.
We need to change
things now to give tomorrow's Filipinos a cleaner, healthier
country than what we have today. Lets hand over to them a true "Pearl of