Toward a low carbon economy: challenge posed by coal-fired power plants and related industry Part II

Continuing from Part I, another way to regulate carbon emissions from power plants (and related industries) is through the national Clean Air Act.


The State, as set in the Act and relative to this sort of regulation and principles,

Shall promote and protect the global environment to attain sustainable development while recognizing the primary responsibility of local government units to deal with environmental problems.

Recognizes that the responsibility of cleaning the habitat and environment is primarily area-based.

Recognizes the principle, “polluters must pay”.

Polluters must pay – clear as a hot summer day, right?

In other words, the State, particularly EMB-DENR, derives its responsibility and authority to regulate carbon emission from this Act.

Perusing the Act, you’ll learn that there is mention of an Integrated Air Quality Improvement Framework as the “official blueprint with which all government agencies must comply with to attain and maintain ambient air quality standards”. It prescribes, among others, “the emission reduction goals using permissible standards, control strategies and control measures to be undertaken within a specified time period, including cost-effective use of economic incentives, management strategies, collective actions, and environmental education and information”.

Let’s repeat that: Emission reduction goals using permissible standards.

Where in the blizzard shall we find these?

The Clean Air Act says

…the Department (i.e. DENR) shall, with public participation, formulate and implement an air quality control action plan… The action plan shall: (a) Include enforceable emission limitations and other control measures, means or techniques, as well as schedules and time tables for compliance, as may be necessary or appropriate to meet the applicable requirements of this Act; (b) Provide for the establishment and operation of appropriate devices, methods, systems and procedures necessary to monitor, compile and analyze data on ambient air quality; (c) Include a program to provide for the following: (1) enforcement of the measures described in subparagraph [a]; (2) regulation of the modification and construction of any stationary source within the areas covered by the plan, in accordance with land use policy to ensure that ambient air quality standards are achieved…

In addition

…the LGUs, with the assistance from the Department, shall prepare and develop an action plan consistent with the Integrated Air Quality Improvement Framework to attain and maintain the ambient air quality standards within their respective airsheds… submit to the Department a procedure for carrying out the action plan for their jurisdiction…

National government or DENR for that matter

…shall maintain its authority to independently inspect the enforcement procedure adopted. The Department shall have the power to closely supervise all or parts of the air quality action plan until such time the local government unit concerned can assume the function to enforce the standards set by the Department. A multi-sectoral monitoring team with broad public representation shall be convened by the Department for each LGU to conduct periodic inspections of air pollution sources to assess compliance with emission limitations contained in their permits.

Where exactly can we find the emission standards and goals?

The general guidelines are found in and the subject of the DENR’s Administrative Order No. 2000-82. Per guidelines, the “fundamental tool under this national air quality management system will be the concept that all sources of air pollutant emissions will require a permit to operate”.

The standards and permit regulations on the other hand are found in the IRR here, from the DOE.

According to the IRR, “for any trade, industry, process, fuel-burning equipment or industrial plant emitting air pollutants, the concentration at the point of emission shall not exceed the limits” of the National Emission Standards for Source Specific Air Pollutants – let’s provide some of the defined caps or limits here

Source:  RA 8749 IRR
Source: RA 8749 IRR

There are also standards for mobile pollutants such as motor vehicles

Source:  RA 8749 IRR
Source: RA 8749 IRR

Going further, the DAO guidelines and RA 8749 IRR defined the outline for how LGUs can set up a system of emission credits which if implemented nationwide and systematically could place the country in the global emission cap and trade network.

Yet despite this legal provision how come for instance in regional cities such as Baguio City the police and not the LGUs think they are the frontliners in the goal toward a low carbon economy? By jumping at private citizens driving their vehicles on highways and streets – and complaining if they’re side swept in the process – and brusquely commanding the drivers to have their cars’ emissions checked – in the middle of the goddamned highway at the unholy hour of high noon – and with a smirk like the devil’s itself proceed to lambast you and strip you of your license – emission violations isn’t about the driving license do they know that? no? god help us! – when the needle of their doubtful instrument – akin to sidewalk vendors’ cheating scales – pings past what they allege is the “maximum”.

Test procedure, according to the IRR, for carbon emission from motor vehicles “shall be at idling speed as provided in the Emission Test Procedure for Vehicles Equipped with Spark-Ignition Engines and the Free Acceleration Test Procedure for Vehicles Equipped with Compression-Ignition Engines”. Idling speed, not when the vehicle is not running, for goodness sake!

And, they should not even run after the drivers or vehicle owners, because

All newly-manufactured or imported gasoline-fuelled motor vehicles, including motorcycles and mopeds, to be
introduced into the market or imported into the Philippines shall be designed to operate on unleaded gasoline upon the
effectivity of these Implementing Rules and Regulations;

The application for a COC (i.e. Certificate of Compliance) shall be submitted to the Bureau by the motor vehicle manufacturer, assembler, importer or their duly authorized representatives. It shall be accompanied by the following particulars in triplicate copies:
(a) Complete and detailed descriptions of motor vehicle and the engine;
(b) Description of the emission control system installed in the motor vehicle;
(c) Details of the fuel feed system;
(d) Vehicle Type Approval System test result by DOTC/LTO (while the DOTC/LTO is developing inspection capability of the motor vehicle type approval system test, the previous emission test results of preproduction engine vehicle type duly authenticated by the Philippine Embassy/Consulate of the country of origin or manufacture of subject motor vehicle shall be valid and sufficient); and
(e) Other particulars which may be required by the Department.

See? They have no right at all to stop and demand, in the middle of roads, without considerable notice to and consent of car owners for emission violations. Because on another plane of argument there is not a local Action Plan in place in these cities and in its absence, discretionary application of the law is tantamount to violations of constitutional rights.

I’ve strayed from coal-fired power plants to emissions from motor vehicles but anyway my point is, the current mindset and practice of not knowing the law and applying onto others what we think is the law should be changed and a strategic, proactive, and participatory implementation scheme conforming to the IRR put in place. Toward this, the first order is to know and understand the law and it’s implications on how we go about de-carbonizing the economy.


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