Welcome to Inquirer Mobility


By Jhes­set O. Enano

In­stead of re­vert­ing to “busi­ness as usual,” the gov­ern­ment should start work­ing to make the trans­port sys­tem greener and more ef­fi­cient and, in the process, sus­tain the good air qual­ity made pos­si­ble by the lock­down im­posed to con­trol COVID-19, a non­govern­ment group said.
With re­stric­tions on move­ment slowly be­ing eased around the coun­try, the Cen­ter for Re­search on En­ergy and Clean Air (CREA) said the gov­ern­ment must craft proper strate­gies to fix the trans­port sys­tem and fore­stall the re­turn of the pol­luted air that poses dan­gers to our health.
“The ‘new nor­mal’ should also be imag­i­na­tive,” said CREA an­a­lyst Is­abella Suarez in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day. “We have to start in­vest­ing and fo­cus­ing on so­lu­tions that have been rec­om­mended for a very long time, but which we have not ac­tu­ally pur­sued.”
An anal­y­sis done by CREA showed that the slow­down in eco­nomic and so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in South­east Asian coun­tries has led to an over­all re­duc­tion in emis­sions, as well as elec­tric­ity de­mand, in ma­jor cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Metro Manila.
Us­ing Sen­tinel-5p satel­lite data, the group con­ducted a year-on-year com­par­i­son of the ni­tro­gen diox­ide (NO2) lev­els, fo­cus­ing on pe­ri­ods when coun­tries en­tered lock­down.
Ve­hi­cle emis­sions
Ac­cord­ing to the US En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, NO2 is a harm­ful gas that comes from ve­hi­cle emis­sions and power plants. Ex­po­sure to it can ag­gra­vate res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases and put chil­dren and the el­derly at greater risk.
Data anal­y­sis also showed that lock­down mea­sures have led to ap­prox­i­mately 45-per­cent re­duc­tion in NO2 lev­els in Metro Manila from March 15 to May 5, com­pared to the same pe­riod last year.
This anal­y­sis is con­sis­tent with data from both the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Air­to­day.ph, which showed gen­eral im­prove­ment in air qual­ity in par­tic­u­lar cities in the Metro dur­ing the com­mu­nity quar­an­tine.
Suarez said that through this global health cri­sis, peo­ple were of­fered a glimpse of life with more breath­able air. The chal­lenge, she added, was how to turn this into a daily re­al­ity by re­duc­ing fos­sil fuel use and en­forc­ing air qual­ity stan­dards.
One long-term so­lu­tion would be to build the peo­ple’s trust in the mass trans­port sys­tem, which would re­quire in­vest­ments and com­mit­ment from both the na­tional and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, Suarez sug­gested.
“We also have to pro­mote ac­tive travel and life­style mo­bil­ity, such as bik­ing,” she said. “A lot more Filipinos would do it if it were safe to do so … [It] could fun­da­men­tally shape how our cities func­tion.”
Suarez said these ac­tions can avert a po­ten­tial in­crease in the num­ber of pri­vate cars on the road once the quar­an­tine is lifted, as peo­ple might fear tak­ing mass trans­port amid the spread of the virus and look for al­ter­na­tive op­tions.