SC petitioners fed up with traffic jams, air and noise pollution
MANILA, Philippines—A group of Filipinos, including children and students, on Monday asked the Supreme Court to compel the government to implement a road-sharing scheme, saying that practically all the roads in the country are given to just less than 2 percent of the population that owns motor vehicles.
“The 98 percent of Filipinos are not even given proper space for them to walk or bike,” the group said.
It is demanding that half of the roads be set aside for nonmotorized transportation, safe and covered sidewalks, edible gardens and all-weather bike lanes, and the other half for an organized transport system.
Valerie Cruz, one of the convenors of the Share the Road Movement, said the group was also asking the high court to reduce the gas allowance of Cabinet officials and to require them to take public transport.
Cruz said this was the only way for officials to understand the experience of a daily commuter taking public transport.
Carless residents and car owners alike walked for 30 minutes from Rizal Park to the Supreme Court building in Manila to ask for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan. Others rode bikes.
A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy for parties who believe that their “constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated or threatened with violation.” Its issuance leads to protection orders and mandates court hearings on environment and health matters.
“All (petitioners) stand to be injured by respondents’ unlawful neglect of the principle that those who have less in wheels must have more in the road (road-sharing principle) as directed by law,” said the petition, which held as respondents several government agencies and President Aquino, chair of the Climate Change Commission.
Four-year-old Maria Paulina Castañeda, a daughter of a participant in the “Walk for WoK (writ of kalikasan),” handed the copy of the petition to the docket section of the Supreme Court.
Castañeda was assisted by 80-year-old Commissioner Elsie de Veyra of the Philippine Commission on Women, who said that she attended the event to represent the elderly.
The petitioners asked the high court to require the government to implement certain environmental laws “to mitigate the ill effects of the crisis of climate change, reduce air pollution and improve air quality by adopting the road-sharing principle.”
The environmental laws include Administrative Order No. 171, which created the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change; Executive Order No. 774, which reorganized the Presidential Task force on Climate Change; Administrative Order No. 254, which mandates the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to formulate a national environmentally sustainable transport for the Philippines; and Republic Act No. 9729, which established the framework strategy and program on climate change, and created the Climate Change Commission.
The petitioners said the government had been building more and more roads to accommodate more and more private vehicles.
“This car-centric transportation policy is the result of the Philippines trying to ape the transportation model of Los Angeles, a model we see in American movies,” they said.
They noted that the proliferation of private cars and vehicles has poisoned the air and that the government has failed to implement environment laws.
The petitioners asked the court to direct the DOTC, Department of Public Works and Highways and Department of the Interior and Local Government to immediately implement the road-sharing principle by, among other ways:
– Dividing all the roads by at least one half, lengthwise. One-half of the road shall be used for all-weather sidewalks and bicycle lanes as well as for urban edible gardens pursuant to Section 12b of Executive Order No. 774.
The other half of the road space may be used for motorized vehicles, preferably for safe, efficient, convenient and inexpensive collective or mass Filipino-made transportation systems.
– For the Department of Budget and Management to make available funds for the road-sharing principle.
– For the executive branch to reduce its fuel consumption by 50 percent starting from the date the case was filed, and for employees and officials to take public transportation for 50 percent of the time.
Those who joined the Walk for WoK included some 80 law students from Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda College.
Carrying papers with the statement “I support road-sharing,” the participants included women, children, doctors, elderly and persons with disabilities.
Some biking enthusiasts “fed up with the country’s traffic congestion, high cost of transportation, noise and air pollution” also joined the activity. A wheelchair-bound elderly man, who carried his dog, took part in the walk.
Ateneo law student Clariesse Chan, one of the convenors of the Share the Road Movement, said that the “time for talk is over.”
Before they filed the petition, the walkers were blocked by police officers who had set up barricades on Padre Faura Street. But the walkers showed the police that what they were waging was a “peaceful revolution.”
The group quietly proceeded to the Supreme Court and waited for the flag-raising ceremony to end before some representatives entered the building and filed the petition.
Asked how he saw the implementation of the road-sharing principle in the country, San Beda law student Paolo Burro told the Inquirer that the group was targeting a “slow implementation” of the scheme.
“We can start by giving wide, safe and clean walkways for pedestrians,” he said.
With these “simple projects,” people will realize the impact that these can do to the streets, Burro said.
Ateneo law student Det Eugenio said it was time to show to the people that road-sharing was possible.
“We can start this road revolution in small towns and eventually cover a bigger scale,” Eugenio told the Inquirer.
After submitting the petition to the Supreme Court, the participants proceeded to the Senate in Pasay City and filed the people’s initiative to pass the proposed share the roads law.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje welcomed the filing in the Supreme Court of the writ of kalikasan on road-sharing.
Although he was among the respondents, Paje said the petition was a “golden opportunity” to help boost efforts to achieve the best air quality possible.
In a statement, Paje expressed gratitude to the petitioners for “potentially opening a new chapter in Philippine environmentalism.”
He said, “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.”—With a report from Jeannette I. Andrade