Where are the funds for the Clean Air Act?
By Gina Mission

After lobbying in the 10th and the 11th Congres and gathering five million signatures, Clean Air Act was finally enacted in the middle of this year. Today, five months after the law took effect, its advocates are facing yet another battle. There are no funds for its implementation. How such a law, which was passed primarily due to a public outcry so huge that it would have been political suicide to ignore it, has ended up in the same heap as many other pieces of unfunded legislation, is a story civil society groups do not want to keep mum about.

   The underlying principle of the Clean Air Act is that every Filipino has the right to breathe clean air, which by the way, is a universally recognized right. Basically, the Act serves as a guide for government to map out a "national air quality management system" to address the country’s worsening air condition. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the lead agency which has been identified to coordinate, consult, or enter into agreements with other government agencies, affected NGOs, peoples' organizations, or private entities to establish standards that will lower or eliminate the different pollutants that affect our air quality.

   Originally introduced in the 10th Congress (1992-1998), the Clean Air Act is the government’s reply to the deafening cries of most Metro Manila residents desperate to save themselves from respiratory diseases caused by air pollution.

   Section 50 of the Law provides an appropriation of P750 million for its initial implementation. From this amount, the DENR will get P300 million, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) P200 million; the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) P150 million, and the Department of Energy (DOE) P100 million.

   Unfortunately, the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for Year 2000, which is currently being deliberated at the bicameral committee of Congress, has no allocation for such an amount and for such a purpose.

   "This is a clear statement of how serious our leaders are in implementing the Clean Air Act," remarked Atty. Jun Quincho, program director of Tanggol Kalikasan, the legal arm of the Haribon Foundation, an environment NGO. Haribon is one of the many NGOs that lobbied for the passage of the law.

   As Atty. Carmelo Cegui aptly observed: "What good is a law if it cannot be implemented? And how can implementation be possible if there is no funding?" Cegui is the chief legal officer of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), DENR’s line agency tasked to implement, along with the other departments, the Clean Air Act.

   Dismissing earlier stories that Congress has reneged on its duty, House Speaker Manuel Villar assured that the Act indeed has funding. In a Malaya report, the Speaker said that the law’s funding would come mostly from foreign financial institutions, specifically the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In the same report, the Speaker claimed that the ADB committed some $350 million in loans, $200 million of which will be for the law’s policy component, $25 million for the air pollution control policy, and $122.3 million for investments in pollution control.

   But EMB Air Quality Management Section engineer, Amadeo Alveyra, explained that the foreign loan referred to by Villar is actually the budget for another separate project, Metro Manila Air Quality, and not for the Clean Air Act.

   "The Metro Manila Air Quality was there even before the Clean Air Act was passed," Alveyra said. "One is purely for Metro Manila only, and the Clean Air Act is for the entire country," he said, adding that among all the urban centers in the country, it is Metro Manila that has the worst air pollution.

   Cegui confirmed Alveyra’s statement, saying that the Metro Manila Air Quality was in fact designed as a standby project "in the event that the Clean Air Act is not passed."

   Depending on who is talking, there are two versions of why the Clean Air Act has no allocation in the GAA. Bukidnon Representative Nereus Acosta, principal author of the Act, is saying that it is the fault of the executive. "Legislators can only legislate laws, not execute them. And the Act contains an expressed provision for its funding," he said. Acosta added that even if it wasn’t their responsibility, he and the other supporters of the law, namely, Congressmen Gilberto Duavit and Federico Sandoval II, lobbied for its funding during the House deliberations on the GAA.

   The EMB, is not taking the blame either. "They enacted the law, they should have made sure that there will be funding for its implementation," said Atty. Nelson Honrado, EMB legal officer and soon-to-be-proclaimed spokesperson of the bureau.

   But for Atty. Quincho, the issue is simple. And it’s not even about money, or the lack of it. "They don’t have the political will to implement the Act," he said. "We believe our legislators have done their part, although their acts might be motivated by some political ambition. What the Clean Air Act is now, reflects the priorities of the current administration, and the priorities of DENR Secretary Antonio Cerilles," he added.

   The budget of the DENR has been severely criticized by the Legal Rights Resource Center, a legal advocacy NGO concerned with environment issues, as pro-mining and pro-logging.

   In fairness, Alveyra explained that the DENR did propose a P300 million allocation for next year’s budget, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) did not approve it, presumably because of "lack of funds," according to Alveyra. It was Alveyra who sat most of the time with Secretary Antonio Cerilles during the deliberation in the Lower House on the DENR budget proposal.

   Acosta and the other Clean Air Act advocates are currently lobbying with the bicameral committee members for the law’s funding "insertion" in the Year 2000 GAA. But Acosta himself admitted that there’s a very slim chance for such a legislative insertion. For one, legislators could not even agree on the budget cuts. For another, who would want to "adopt" such an insertion when the government is cash-strapped?

   Already, Honrado is talking of a Clean Air Act without budget. "It’s just like wanting to buy shoes. If you have money, you can buy it when you want to, otherwise, you’ll just have to wait," he said.

   But can we really wait?

   According to a report by the Council on Health and Development, tuberculosis afflicts 47 million Filipinos, more than double an earlier figure of 22 million it cited some years back. The World Health Organization estimates that 270,000 Filipinos contract the disease every year.

   "No, our health cannot wait, and even if it can, we are not going to wait until the government, whose priority should be very obvious by now, to just hand us our basic right to breath clean air," Quincho said. "We are talking about a decade of lobbying for the passage of this law. We are not going to let it become one of the unfunded laws of Congress."

   Quincho revealed that there are efforts within civil society groups "for the law to be implemented." While he chose to be cryptic about what these initiatives are, he assured that "civil society is not going to just sleep it off." However, he also admitted that, ultimately, the success of the law still lies in the hands of both the national and local governments.

   In two more days, Congress shall have passed - at least, according to the members of the bicameral committee - the proposed P651 billion budget for the Year 2000. As of December 15, both legislative and executive committees had "agreed on principle" on a budget cut of P7 billion, further dimming the chance of getting a P750 million budget insertion for the implementation of the Clean Air Act.

   But Quincho and his group are not giving up hope. If the allocation for the implementation of the Clean Air Act is nowhere to be found in next year’s budget, they’ll make enough noise to ensure that the government includes it in the budget for the year after.

Laws passed between 1991-1998 with funding deficiencies as of June 1998
(In Thousand Pesos)

R.A. No. Title/Subject Budgetary Requirement Funding Deficiency Remarks

ECONOMIC SERVICES P378,825,000 P244,089,665

6978 Providing for an accelerated program within a 10-year period for the construction of irrigation projects NA NA Absorbed in the Agricultural Fisheries Modernization Act
7368 Countrywide Industrialization Act 5,000,000 4,776,863 For 5 years
7884 National Dairy Development Act of 1995 200,000 200,000  
7900 High-Value Crops Development Act of 1995 1,000,000 323,782 Seed money for the H-V Crop Dev’t. Fund
7903 Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 12,000,000 11,809,500 NG subscription from the P20B capitalization
7922 Cagayan Special Economic Zone 12,000,000 11,627,500 NG subscription from the P20B capitalization
8150 Public Works and Highways Infrastructure Program Act of 1995 173,525,000 41,017,808  
8175 Amending Charter of PCIC 1,500,000 734,212 NG subscription from the P20B capitalization
8293 Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines NQ    
8435 Agricultural Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 122,000,000 122,000,000  
8532 An Act Strengthening further the CARP by providing augmentation fund 50,000,000 50,000,000  
8550 Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 1,600,00 1,600,000  

SOCIAL SERVICES P74,624,114 P35,123,922

7305 Magna Carta of Public Health NQ   1999 proposal refers to subsistence and laundry allowance
7696 Providing for Old Age Pension and Other Benefits 39,362,114 10,874,497 Deficiency in total administrative disability and arrears in pension benefits
7835 Comprehensive and Integrated Shelter and Development Financing Program 26,522,000 15,792,496 Requirements within 5 years
7846 Compulsory immunization against Hepatitis-B for children below 8 years old 3,000,000 2,716,929 No proposal in 1999 due to excessive cost of vaccines
7875 National Health Insurance Act of 1995 NQ   Only P128 M from MCSPF in 1996 was covered by SARO because PHIC did not submit requirements
7876 Senior Citizens Center in all cities and municipalities nationwide NQ    
8042 Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 500,000 500,000  
8371 The Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 NQ    
8423 Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997 NQ    
8425 Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act 5,100,000    
8504 Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 20,000 20,000  
8505 Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998 120,000 120,000  
8552 Domestic Adoption Act of 1998 NQ    

DEFENSE P164,000,000 P156,182,978

7898 AFP Modernization Act 164,000,000 156,182,978 Requirement of Phase I
8551 Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998 NQ    

GENERAL PUBLIC SERVICES P2,005,000 P1,205,000

8189 Comelec-General registration of voters 2,000,000 1,200,000  
8246 Creating additional divisions in the Court of Appeals NQ    
8369 Family Courts Act of 1997 NQ    
8370 Children’s Television Act of 1997 5,000 5,000  
8557 Establishment of the Philippine Judicial Academy NQ    

GRAND TOTAL P619,454,114 P436,601,565


CyberDyaryo | 1999.12.16