Joint Statement of Clean Air Asia and Partnership for Clean Air in Support of Cleaner Fuels to Protect Filipinos from the Harmful Impacts of Diesel Vehicle Emissions
While governing is a constant balancing act, matters of the highest importance, such as the lives and health of people, shouldn’t be compromised no matter the cost. In the quest to arrest inflation, it is incumbent upon the Philippine government to prioritize solutions that protect people’s health. The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Department Order No. 2018-08-0012 directing Philippine oil companies to provide Euro II-compliant automotive diesel oil at retail stations, and indirectly encouraging the use of Euro II diesel, could cause an increase in deaths and illnesses from exposure to particulate matter (PM) from diesel emissions.
Air pollution is costly, and unmaintained diesel vehicles running on dirty fuels are major air pollution sources. In 2013 alone, air pollution cost the economy an estimated USD $2.8 billion from more than 57,000 lives lost, as reported by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. To protect public health, we must continue to find safer and sustainable alternatives to dirty diesels and other fossil fuels, not only for the transportation of people and goods, but also for power generation, industrial and commercial operations, agriculture, and household use.
Higher sulfur levels in diesel increase PM emissions. Euro IV diesel (with a sulfur content of 50 parts per million or ppm) is more effective in reducing harmful PM emissions than Euro II diesel, which has 10 times more sulfur at 500 ppm.
The expected increase in PM emissions from a Euro IV to Euro II diesel shift is of concern because of the growing number of diesel vehicles and rising diesel fuel consumption. Of the registered vehicles in 2016, diesel vehicles comprised about 23.3% at 2,151,813 units. From 1998 to 2017, it was estimated that diesel vehicles increased about 73,354 units annually, or at a rate of 4.9% per year; consequently, the consumption of automotive diesel fuel in the country is rising.
Young children, the elderly, and people with impaired health are most vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution. Particulates with diameters equal to or less than 2.5 microns or “PM2.5” are about one-twentieth (1/20th) the diameter of a human hair and can lodge deep into the lungs and cause death, cancers and other serious respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Ultrafine particles with diameters equal to or less than 100 nanometers can enter the bloodstream and damage the blood-brain barrier. According to UNICEF, in very young children, even low doses of toxic chemicals can damage the growing brain, while the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier in older people has been strongly linked with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Clean Air Asia and the Partnership for Clean Air, NGOs that work for a pollution-free Asia and Philippines, strongly support cleaner fuels as a key strategy to reduce the health impacts of vehicle emissions. To align with the Clean Air Act, we respectfully request that the DOE Department Order be reconsidered. In addition, since our transition to non-fossil fuel-based or zero-emissions transportation is in a nascent stage, the government must reiterate that only gasoline and diesel fuels complying with the standard specifications for Euro 4/IV fuels be allowed for sale at the bulk and retail levels in the country. We also strongly urge the DOE, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Transportation and other relevant agencies to develop a roadmap to further clean up vehicles and fuels, to provide Filipinos with what they deserve – to breathe clean air.
Agustin L. Arcenas. 2009. Final Report submitted to the World Bank on Environmental Health: Economic Costs of Environmental Damage and Suggested Priority Interventions – Contribution to the Philippine Country Environmental Analysis
Asian Development Bank and Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia). 2008. A Road Map for Cleaner Fuels and Vehicles in Asia
GIZ, DOTr and Clean Air Asia. 2017. The Philippines Stocktaking Report on Sustainable Transport and Climate Change: Data, Policy and Monitoring
Land Transportation Office. 1998-2016. Road Vehicle Statistics
World Bank and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. 2016. The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the Economic Case for Action. Washington, DC: World Bank. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO
UNICEF. 2017. Danger in the Air: How air pollution can affect the brain development in young children