700 Cyclists to Make Metro Manila Run for Clean Air Festival

MANILA, Philippines, November 25, 2005 (ENS) - At least 700 cyclists are expected to bike through five cities in Metro Manila on Saturday as part of a Clean Air Festival that is meant to dramatize November as Clean Air Month across the country.

Most of the cyclists are employees of the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) or belong to local and national groups.

The journey starts from the Quezon Memorial Circle. They will then make a turn to EDSA, the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, a main highway in Metro Manila, and then proceed to the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan.

From there, they will head back to Quezon City and on to the cities of Mandaluyong, Makati and Pasay, a ride scheduled to cover 55 kilometers (32 miles).


View from the Mandarin Oriental, Manila shows traffic and greenery, but not bicycles. (Photo courtesy Rich and Cindy Manalang)
Called Fun Bike for Clean Air, the ride aims to promote the bicycle as an alternative, energy efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation as well as allow for camaraderie among the different biking groups.

The United Cyclists Association of the Philippines, North EDSA Cyclists, HDLC Bikers and the 70-man DENR Bikers will be represented on the ride.

DENR Secretary Mike Defensor says the event "will involve a series of awareness-raising activities on clean air programs nationwide being pushed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo."

Last year, Secretary Defensor introduced the Urban Greening Program establishing more "green zones” in cities.

His technique is to use ornamentals and different species of "balled” mature trees to create an "instant forest” along major thoroughfares, he says. "Greening the metropolis serves not only for aesthetic purposes but more so it can contribute in minimizing air pollution, for trees act as a sponge by sequestering carbon in the atmosphere while releasing breathable oxygen."

Yet still, Defensor is disturbed by the amount of air pollution generated in Manila and the country. He says, "The alarming increase of pollution level in the metropolis that threaten the health of the nation especially that of the children, led us to devise programs and different approaches that will encourage our countrymen to participate in our advocacy of cleaning the air."

"The participation of the different sectors of society - environmental advocates, youth and academe, private and business sectors, nongovernment organizations and local government units plays an important role in the realization of our environmental campaigns," the secretary said.


Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Mike Defensor (Photo courtesy Office of the Secretary)
Fun Bike for Clean Air cyclists will distribute flyers about clean air along their route and during brief programs in pit stops designated by participating local or city governments.

Simultaneously, a Clean Air Exhibit will be opened to the public at the Quezon Memorial Circle highlighting various technologies for cleaning the air.

Some 3,500 young people intend to form a human chain around the Quezon Memorial Circle. Students from - the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, Asia-Pacific College, National College of Business and Arts, Quezon City Polytechnic University, Centro Escolar University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Far Eastern University, AMA Computer Learning Center, and Quezon City Scholarship and Youth Development - are mobilizing for the human chain event.

The same young people will release butterflies during the program capping the Clean Air Festival.

They are urging youth "to act and help stop air pollution and promote urban greening in communities."

The exhibit aims to emphasize the role played by the private sector in informing the general public of the different ways to take part in clean air programs. The festival is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development Energy and Clean Air Project.


Smog hangs over the Mega Mall, the largest mall in Metro Manila. Air-conditioned malls are popular as a great escape from the hot and sticky weather. (Photo courtesy Rich and Cindy Manalang)
The Partnership for Clean Air is a multi-sectoral alliance of individuals, public and private sector organizations and government agencies, that aims to increase public involvement in the implementation of clean air programs in Metro Manila.

Its creation is an offshoot of a multi-sectoral public information campaign planning undertaken by the Metro Manila Air Quality Improvement Sector Development Program of the Asian Development Bank.

The Partnership for Clean Air is also the Philippine Representative of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities.

According to the World Bank's 2000 Annual Review, in Manila alone more than 4,000 people die each year because of air pollution. The mortality figure is the third highest for a city in the east Asian region after Beijing and Jakarta.

Beside the deaths, 90,000 other Manila residents suffer from severe chronic bronchitis, costing the government seven percent of its gross domestic product in terms of health costs, the Bank said, citing statistics from the World Health Organization, which did pollution and health studies in 126 countries the previous year.