Anti-Smoke Belching Campaign
ONE HARROWING experience while traveling in Metro Manila, Philippines is having your vehicle flagged down for violation of an anti belching ordinance.
To implement Republic Act No. 8749 or “the Clean Air Act of the Philippines” most cities and municipalities have enacted an ordinance against smoke belching where the penalty is usually a fine of P 1,000 for first-time offenders, while second and third time offenders are fined P 2,000 and P 3000 respectively. In some instances, the driver’s license or the car’s plate number is also confiscated.
And to enforce the ordinance, a city usually creates an Anti-Smoke Belching Unit (ASBU). While their intent is noble, complaints against ASBU operatives abound. Gathered from the accounts of owners or drivers of vehicles apprehended by the ASBU, their procedure in implementing the city’s anti-belching ordinance merits an objective and thorough examination.
(1) In most cases, only “vehicles with diesel engines” are stopped by the ASBU even if the automobile does not emit any visible smoke.
(2) Despite being armed with a certification from the Land Transportation Office that the automobile has recently passed said agency’s smoke emission test, ASBU operatives would still insist that the vehicle undergo their own smoke belching test.
(3) More often than not, the ASBUs conducting the anti-belching campaign are not wearing any identification card (ID) that is supposed to be attached to their uniforms.
(4) There is no signboard or notice that would inform vehicle owners or drivers of an on-going anti-belching campaign making it very difficult to determine whether the operation is legitimate.
(5) In their smoke belching test, the ASBU would take the driver’s seat and floor the gas pedal to accelerate the engine and force it to emit dark smoke thereby justifying a smoke belching violation.
(6) While the ASBU revs the vehicle almost to the point of wrecking the engine, the vehicle’s opacity is measured with the use of a portable machine brought by the ASBU personnel themselves on the side of the road. The ASBU attaches the hose of this machine on the car’s exhaust.
(7) As expected, vehicles often fail the belching test. The ASBU then confiscates either the driver’s license or the car’s plate number.
(8) The ASBU then furnishes the driver a receipt from the city’s anti-pollution office for purposes of redeeming the sequestered license or car plate.
In the event that your vehicle is stopped by the ASBU while traveling, here are some suggestions:
(a) Act with courtesy and show respect. Always remember that respect begets respect. Bear in mind that the purpose of an anti-belching campaign is to have cleaner air and the ASBU operative is just doing his job.
(b) Try to determine if the anti-belching operation is legitimate. In a respectful manner ask the name of the ASBU and examine his identification card, mission order and other documents authorizing the conduct of the operation.
(c) If the ASBU refuses to identify himself, fails to produce his ID or any document say your objection in a firm, clear and professional manner without insulting and unnecessary invectives. It is important that heated exchanges and arguments are avoided as it may compromise your safety including your passengers.
(d) If you have reasons to believe that the belching test is dubious or the ASBU is a bogus one report the matter to the authorities.
Philippine National Police Hotline – 117 (emergency cases); 02-7230401 (non-emergency cases).
Land Transportation Office (LTO) - (02)9257193; 09279366777; 09214487777
Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDA) - Hotline Number Dial 136; 09209389861
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) - +63 (2) 925 0320 to 23
Civil Service Commission (CSC) – (02) 9512575; (02) 9512576; (02)9320111
(e) If existing circumstances render you without choice but to proceed with the conduct of the ASBU’s belching test, try to document the entire procedure using notes, photos or videos.
(f) After the belching test ensure that the receipt issued by the ASBU is completely and properly accomplished. Make sure that the names of the apprehending and testing officers are legibly written on the receipt for identification purposes.
(g) If you think that there are anomalies on the part of the ASBU personnel or any irregularity in the conduct of the entire operation, file a Complaint or request assistance from the appropriate government office.
The Office of the Ombudsman is vested by law with the power to correct and prevent any abuse or impropriety in the performance of duties of government officials and employees including the ASBU operatives. Thus, if you have any legitimate request for any form of assistance call the Office of the Ombudsman at telephone numbers (+632) 479-7300; (+632) 479-7300 and (+632) 479-7300.
(h) Immediately or not later than five (5) days redeem your confiscated driver’s license or car plate. As your vehicle may be subjected again to the ASBU’s belching test, have your car cleaned and checked by a reputable mechanic before proceeding to their office.
(i) At whatever stage of your ordeal, stand up against corruption and help the government weed scalawags within its ranks.