Are private cars really the biggest cause of pollution in Metro Manila?

by Ferman Lao | Oct 7, 2014

Metro Manila pollution

Last week, we reported the DENR's proposal to ban cars over 15 years old. The premise was that motor vehicles are largely responsible for the sudden and significant increase in air pollution in the country over the last few years. Motor vehicles contributing about 70-80% of the air pollution in Metro Manila is being tossed around by DENR secretary Ramon Paje.

In light of the dire situation, a proposal to ban older, high-pollutant-producing vehicles was raised. Cars 15 years or older would be kept permanently off the road in an attempt to improve air quality in the metro. An alternative to the outright removal of these decade-and-a-half-old vehicles would be to have them banned from high-volume, highly congested roads to minimize their impact.

In our 2011 Green Issue, I wrote about how private car owners were getting the short end of the blame-game stick. Looking up the latest motor-vehicle registration data at that time--which were 2007 data--revealed that 47.9% of all registered motor vehicles were actually motorcycles. Utility vehicles--jeepneys included--comprised 29%, with the remaining 23.1% being made up of cars, SUVs, trucks and buses. The total number of recorded registered vehicles in 2007 was 5.53 million.


The emissions standards that I was able to dig up from back then are as follows:

Vehicle type Emissions (g/km)
 Carbon monoxide   Hydrocarbons/
  nitrogen oxides  
Cars (gasoline) 2.2 0.5
Cars (diesel) 1.0 0.7
 Light commercial vehicles up to 3,500kg  1.5 1.2
Motorcycles 5.5 3.6
Tricycles 6.75 5.4

The available data in 2007 also indicated that 1.6 million of the total number of registered vehicles were in Metro Manila. Remember 47.9% of these are motorcycles and tricycles combined.

Fast-forward to 2013, the breakdown of total vehicle registration, according to LTO, is as follows:

Vehicle type  Number of units 
Cars 868,148
Utility vehicles 1,794,572
SUVs 346,396
Trucks 358,445
Buses 31,665
 Motorcycles and tricycles  4,250,667
Total 7,649,893

According to this table, cars make up only 11%; utility vehicles, 23.5%; SUVs, 4.5%; trucks, 4.7%; and buses, 0.4%. Motorcycles and tricycles, on the other hand, make up a whopping 55.6% of the 7,649,893 motor vehicles registered in the country. At least a third of this number is (presumably) in Metro Manila, contributing at least 6,779,813g/km of CO and 4,437,696g/km of HC+NOx--significantly much more than the 1,909,925g/km of CO and 434,074g/km of HC+NOx from all the cars registered in the country.

We all agree that something must be done about the worsening problem of urban pollution. But perhaps the DENR, the LTO and other related government agencies should take a much closer look and come to a real solution that does not prejudice private car owners. After all, policy is one thing and proper implementation is another thing in the Philippines.

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Artwork by Raynand Olarte

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