Environmentalists sue gov’t agencies on road sharing plan

ENVIRONMENTAL and civil society groups which banded together to form the Share the Road Movement, yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a writ of kalikasan against several government agencies for failing to implement the “Road Sharing Principle” where one half of the roads should be  devoted to sidewalks, all-weather bike lanes and urban gardens.
A writ of kalikasan is a legal action which takes government agencies to task for failing to protect the public from alarming environmental damage – in this case, urban air pollution.
Named respondents were Climate Change Commission, the Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Road Board, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG),  Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and unnamed local government units (LGUs) and local officials.
In a 31-page petition, the petitioners blamed respondent-government agencies for the non-implementation of the road sharing principle despite the passage of  Clean Air Act, Executive Orders 774 and 171 and Administrative Order 254.
“This mind-shift called Road Sharing Principle is in accord with the Filipino spirit and high cultural value of sharing – the ‘bayanihan’ – but respondents chose to ignore it and follow the Los Angeles lifestyle (individualized and car-based transportation system) – a fine example of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” the petition said.
Petitioners are Victoria Segovia, Ruel Lago and Clariesse Jami Chan, representing the Carless People of the Philippines; Gabriel Anastacio represented by his mother Grace Anastacio, Dennis Orlando Sangalang represented by his mother May Aleli Sangalang, Maria Paulina Castañeda represented by her mother Patricia Ann Castañeda, representing the Children of the Philippines and Children of the Future; and Renato Pineda, Jr., Aaron Kerr Menguito, May Alili Sangalang, and Glynda Bathan Baterina, representing the non-car owners.
They said that instead of transforming the road and transportation system to favor non-motorized transport and locomotion, these government agencies “have gone on their merry way of building more and more roads, paving with concrete almost available open spaces.”
The road building mania, petitioners said has even “invaded” the air space as they cited the DPWH plan to build an 14.8-kilometer, P26- billion high-rise Skyway to “decongest” Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (Edsa) and C-5.
Petitioners faulted the DILG for failure to coordinate with the LGUs and for failure to guide them on the Road Sharing Principle, while the DENR  failed to reduce air pollutants despite the passage of the Clean Air Act or R.A.  8749.
They said  DBM failed to ‘immediately make available funds from Road Users’ Tax while the MMDA they said should be included as a respondent since without its participation, there would be no complete solution to the problem.
Petitioners also said the SC should order all “Cabinet officials and employees of the Cabinet Departments of Government, starting with the Office of the President, the Climate Change Commission, DPWH, DOTC, DILG, DENR, and the MMDA to immediately reduce their fuel consumption by 50 percent starting from the date the petition is filed and be compelled to take public transportation for  50 percent of the time.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje expressed  full support to the petition for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan on road sharing.
He noted that the petition is “a golden opportunity” to further improve the effective implementation of R.A. 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.
“The petition is a welcome challenge for the government because if it succeeds, it will surely help boost the ongoing concerted effort to improve the quality of the air we breathe,” he noted.
“Rest assured that whatever the outcome of the petition, the DENR will continue to strive to attain the best air quality achievable with the help of all the stakeholders, including the petitioners,” he added. – With Angela Lopez de Leon


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