(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 18, 2014
MANILA, Philippines – As traffic gridlocks caused by the start of two major road projects were expected to start yesterday, a group of environmentalists asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order the government to divide roads in half.
In a 31-page petition, members of the Share the Road movement asked the high tribunal to issue a writ of kalikasan that would compel the government to set up and implement a road-sharing scheme for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in a bid to reduce traffic and air pollution from motor vehicles.
The petitioners wanted the government to devote half of all roads to an “organized, collective, clean and affordable transportation system,” and the other half for covered sidewalks, all-weather bicycle lanes and urban gardens.
The petitioners pushed for the implementation of the scheme under Executive Order 774, which requires the government to create a system that “shall favor non-motorized locomotion and collective transportation systems (walking, bicycling, and the man-powered mini-trains).”
They noted that Section 12(b) of the EO provides that public open spaces along sidewalks, portions of roads and parking lots “rendered irrelevant” by the shift to non-motorized and collective transport systems, shall be devoted to sustainable urban farming.
The petitioners said only two percent of Filipinos are car owners but majority of the roads are given to them. They said there are car owners who would rather not have cars if only there is a good, convenient, safe and reliable public transportation.
To demonstrate their cause, they went to the high court from Rizal Monument in Luneta Park on foot or by bicycle.
They lamented that the construction of the Skyway Stage 3 is a manifestation of the government’s bias for cars, which they want to fight.
The petitioners named the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Metro Manila Development Authority as respondents.
Among the petitioners was Dr. Virgilio Lazaga of the Philippine Medical Association, who lamented that the top four causes of death in the country are related to air pollution – diseases of the heart, diseases of the vascular system, carcinoma and chronic respiratory diseases. Government studies show that 80 percent of air pollution comes from motor vehicles.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, despite being named as one of the respondents, said 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 expressed gratitude to the petitioners, among them award-winning environment lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr., for “potentially opening a new chapter in Philippine environmentalism.”