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IBP Launches Take-A-Pic-4-Clean-Air
Integrated Bar of the Philippines encourages ordinary citizens to take pictures of smoke-belching vehicles and send the pictures to the IBP for legal action.

Turn-over of the first batch of pictures by AMMA President Raquel Naciongayo (right) to IBP NCLA Director Bienvenido "Bong" Somera, Jr. Looking on are Atty. Karen E. Baydo, DENR Regional Director Arnulfo Hernandez, PCA Director Alberto Suansing, and Pasig City Councilor Andy Santiago.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines through its National Committee on Legal Aid (NCLA) and its National Environmental Action Team (NEAT) in cooperation with the Association of Metro Manila Anti-Smoke Belching Units (AMMA) and the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) launched the "Take-A-Pic-4-Clean Air" Program on April 21, 2006 at the People Power Monument along EDSA in Quezon City.

During the launch, representatives from the different public and private organizations supportive of the Program were in attendance.

IBP NCLA Director Bienvenido Somera, Jr., a prime mover of the Program since its inception, led the IBP lawyers who participated in the launch. IBP Quezon City Chapter President Vicky Loanzon was in attendance. The IBP-Quezon City Chapter assured the Program of about twenty five (25) lawyers who will represent citizens who take pictures of smoke-belching vehicles.

Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Assistant Secretary Anneli Lontoc reiterated LTO’s support of the Program during the launch. The Program’s success largely depends on data provided by LTO particularly the names and addresses of vehicle owners whose smoke-belching vehicles are caught on camera. The Program will also make use of the LTO Emission Testing Center for emission testing of these vehicles.

Partnership for Clean Air Director and DOTC Consultant Alberto Suansing also participated in the launch and gave a message of support for the Program.

Representatives from two local government units (LGUs) chosen for the Program’s pilot phase, namely Councilor Alejandro Santiago of Pasig City and Frederika Rentoy, head of the Committee on Environment of Quezon City expressed their full support for the Program.

During the launch, AMMA, through its adviser, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Director Arnulfo Hernandez, lauded the Program’s objective of achieving clean air for all. Regional Director Hernandez also reiterated AMMA’s commitment to support the Program by taking pictures of smoke-belching vehicles and submitting the same to the IBP for appropriate action.

The Energy and Clean Air Project of USAID (USAID-ECAP), which supported the launch, assured the parties of the project’s continuing support of the Program. USAID-ECAP Communications Specialist Josephine A. Mangila lauded the Program and encouraged those involved to keep on the fight. She expressed hope for the Program’s success noting the famous quote from an imminent anthropologist – "Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." She said that as long as the IBP and all the other organizations involved in the Program remain committed to its noble objectives, the Program will be successful.

The highlight of the launch was the turnover of the first batch of pictures taken by AMMA to the IBP. AMMA President Raquel Naciongayo gave IBP NCLA Director Bienvenido Somera, Jr. pictures of five (5) smoke-belching vehicles, the owners of which will be the recipients of the first batch of Notices to Sue under the Take-A-Pic-4-Clean-Air Program.

Background of the Program

The Program aims to encourage ordinary citizens to take action against smoke-belchers pursuant to the citizen suit provision of the Clean Air Act (CAA). Section 41 of the CAA encourages citizens to file an appropriate civil, criminal or administrative action against any person who violates or fails to comply with the provisions of the Act including owners of smoke-belching vehicles.

Under the Program, ordinary citizens can take pictures of smoke-belching vehicles and send the pictures to the IBP for legal action. The IBP will inquire from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) the names and addresses of the owners of the vehicles caught on camera. The IBP, on behalf of those who took the pictures of the vehicles, will send Notices to Sue to the vehicle owners. To increase awareness of the public on the health impact of air pollution from motor vehicles and the benefits of regular preventive maintenance by reducing emissions from vehicles, primers on these topics will be attached to the Notice to Sue. The Notice to Sue requires the vehicle owner to repair his/her vehicle within thirty (30) days from receipt of the Notice to Sue. The vehicle owner will also be required to present the vehicle to the Emission Testing Center at LTO East Avenue on a specified date for emission testing. If the vehicles pass the emission test, no suit will be filed against the vehicle owner. However, if the vehicles fail the test, the LTO will give the owners seven (7) days within which to have their vehicles fixed, otherwise the IBP on behalf of the citizen who took the pictures, or the LTO, will file the appropriate case/s against them. If the vehicle owner fails to present his/her vehicle for testing, the IBP, on behalf of the citizen who took the pictures, will file the necessary cases against the vehicle owner. The pictures of the smoke-belching vehicle serve as prima facie evidence of the vehicle owner’s violation.

The Program started in August 2005 when IBP President Jose Anselmo Cadiz executed a Memorandum of Understanding with LTO Assistant Secretary Anneli Lontoc to embark on an anti-smoke belching campaign based on the citizen suit provision of the Clean Air Act. The LTO committed to "share data and information necessary for the success of the joint anti-smoke belching activities," including but not limited to, the names and addresses of the owners of the smoke-belching vehicles caught on camera by private citizens.

When USAID-ECAP came to know about IBP’s Program, it signified its intention to support it. USAID-ECAP helped IBP devise strategies to boost the public’s awareness of the Program and increase the number of people who will take part in it. USAID-ECAP and IBP sought out like-minded organizations to help increase participation in the Program. AMMA, the umbrella organization of all the Anti-Smoke Belching Units (ASBUs) of the major cities in Metro Manila, through its President Raquel Austria-Naciongayo, readily agreed to tie-up with the IBP for this purpose. The Partnership for Clean Air, a multi-stakeholder organization formed to promote better air quality management in the Philippines, also agreed to support the Program.

The IBP, AMMA and USAID-ECAP decided to name the Program "TAKE-A-PIC-4-CLEAN AIR."

On April 6, 2006, a Workshop for the "TAKE-A-PIC-4-CLEAN-AIR" organized by the IBP, AMMA, and PCA with the support of USAID-ECAP was held at the Youth Training Center in Pasig City to work out the details of the Program. Representatives from other stakeholders such as the DENR, DOTC, LTO, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and LGU representatives participated actively in the Workshop and provided their inputs to the Program.

After the Workshop, AMMA and IBP decided to launch the Program’s initial phase with selected LGUs, particularly those with very active ASBUs. This initial phase will lay the groundwork for the general public’s participation in the Program in the future. In a month after the launch, the Program will have been fine-tuned and issues such as proper picture-taking techniques, procedural guidelines, and logistical concerns, addressed.

The LGUs selected for the Program’s launch were the cities of Pasig, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Quezon. The ASBUs of these cities enforce the CAA and their local air pollution control ordinances. Each ASBU from the four pilot cities have set the goal of taking pictures of five (5) smoke-belching vehicles per day. These pictures will be forwarded to the IBP for appropriate action. After the test phase of one month, it is expected that the Program will have resulted to about 600 pictures smoke-belching vehicles. In the 2nd month of the Program, 600 notices to sue will have been filed.

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