Here’s one for Ripley’s Believe It or Not: In this day and age of modern, eco-friendly living, the Philippines still doesn’t have any national policy or regulation to combat
the urban “noise pollution” epidemic.
While various measures have been taken to prevent the more common water, air and land pollution, there has been little effort, if any, to address the plague of chronic noise exposure. And with the unplanned and uncontrolled growth of our cities and towns due to in-migration, the problem of noise will only get worse.
The dangers posed by noise pollution cannot be underestimated.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report suggests that noise—defined as ‘unwanted sound—can affect human health and well-being in a number of ways, including annoyance reaction, sleep disturbance, interference with communication, performance effects, effects on social behavior.
In fact, prolonged exposure to noise levels at or above 80 decibels has been medically proven to cause permanent hearing loss. Eighty decibels is equivalent to the sound produced by an alarm clock at two feet, factory noise, vacuum cleaner, heavy trucks, and loud radio music.
Exposure to noise has also been associated with a range of possible physical effects including colds, changes in blood pressure, other cardiovascular changes, increased doctor/ hospital visits, problems with the digestive system and general fatigue.
The main culprit for the growing noise pollution in the metropolis, according to a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), are the millions of two-wheeled vehicles thundering through our streets and neighborhoods. Which isn’t really surprising considering that, based on Land Transportation Office (LTO) figures, more than half of the 6.2 million registered vehicles in the Philippines as of 2009, are tricycles, motorcycles, or scooters.
The same ADB study showed that the tailpipe (or muffler) noise emitted by tricycles produced noise levels as high as 97 decibels. Some areas in Quezon City’s District 2 that are densely populated by tricycles, for instance, registered substantially high ambient noise levels of more than 110 decibels. That’s as loud as thunder, a dance club or a rock-and-roll band.
In fact, the noise levels in many residential areas within the district averaged at 80 decibels in the early morning until early evening (6 am to 7 pm) and 65 decibels in the late evening until dawn (10 pm to 4 am). This is way above the national standards for a residential area, which is 60 decibels during daytime and 50 decibels during nighttime.
What’s quite disturbing is that in many cases, the noise emitted by these two-wheeled vehicles is not at all accidental.
We’re told a lot tricycle and motorcycle owners have taken to intentionally disabling or removing their tailpipe silencers, believing that the ear-splitting noise generated by modified mufflers make for safer riding by alerting car drivers on the road much better than horns.
Despite this obvious nuisance, traffic enforcers are reluctant to stop, arrest and penalize the perpetrators of this auditory menace.
One thing’s for sure though. It’s definitely not for lack of “anti-noise pollution” laws
since there are enough of them.
There’s Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act on regulating and controlling emissions—defined as “any air contaminant, pollutant, gas stream or unwanted sound from a known source which is passed into the atmosphere.” There’s also PD 984 or the Pollution Control Law to prevent, abate and control different types of pollution.
Another Marcos-era decree (PD 1152 or the Philippine Environmental Code) establishes the standards for acceptable noise levels for communities as well as for
City and barangay officials we’ve talked to say they’re hesitant to accost and apprehend so-called “noise polluters” because there are no clear-cut guidelines or procedure on how these anti-noise pollution laws are to be enforced and
But under RA 8749, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has sufficient powers to prescribe the implementing rules on—and penalize violations of—noise emission standards, whether for “stationary sources” like buildings, factories, facilities or installations or for motor vehicles. The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), on the other hand, has been authorized not only to test motor vehicles for compliance with noise emission standards but also to apprehend and penalize violators.
All that needs to be done therefore, is for DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to quickly put their heads together to craft a comprehensive anti-noise pollution regulation that deputized law enforcement officials from the barangay up to the national level can carry out and execute.
That’s the least they can do—for our health and sanity.