Saturday, January 08, 2005

Noise pollution and the ATO

Noise pollution and the ATO

Updated 01:23am (Mla time) Jan 08, 2005
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A12 of the January 8, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

SINCE I started this column in 1995, I have written more than 10 articles complaining about the oppressive intrusion of airplanes into the airspace of several subdivisions in Parañaque City, especially Merville Park, where I live. I know whereof I speak, being one of the helpless victims. My complaints were addressed to the administrations of Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and now Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but to no avail. It was like talking to a blank wall.

Over these many years, airplanes from Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines have been flying directly over our houses in these villages at all hours of the day and night and with such unabated noise as to disturb our comfort and convenience. We are awakened at restful hours in the morning, as early as four or five o'clock. During the daytime, our conversations, including our telephone calls, are rudely drowned by the roar of the arrogant airplanes. Visitors, like us, are annoyed by the impudent interruptions. Classes in the schools operating in our communities are regularly disturbed.

Worse, the intolerable noise impairs our health. Particularly affected is our sense of hearing, especially those of the children. At a television program conducted by Kabayan Noli de Castro years ago before he entered politics, several hearing experts proved that the din created by the offending airplanes was above the normal and allowable noise levels. Semito Alparce, the active leader of our anti-noise campaign, has become partly deaf because of the oppressive racket caused by the abusive airplanes. The government authorities are deafer than he is when it comes to listening to our complaints.

Rep. Roilo Golez, during the many years he was in Congress, and later Rep. Eduardo Zialcita, who succeeded him as our congressman for Parañaque in 2001, informed me that they had successively filed resolutions calling for the investigation by the House of Representatives of our complaint. But nothing has come out of these either; they were simply filed and forgotten. Golez and Zialcita are among those who have forgotten although they are pretending indignant concern. The airplanes continue to oppress us without restraint and without letup.

After reading one of my articles about our problems in Merville that had worsened because of the increase in the number and noise of the offending airplanes, Sen. Loren Legarda invited me to a lunch conference with Gen. Adelberto Yap, who was then the head of the Air Transportation Office (ATO). He first airily dismissed my protest as "moot and academic" but he soon realized he was not talking to one of his enlisted men. He became suddenly conciliatory and promised to help us, but he never did. That was three years ago.

Sen. Joker P. Arroyo, as chair of the committee on public service, environment and natural resources, called Yap to a hearing where Alparce and other residents of Merville detailed their grievances against the indifference of the ATO to our complaints. As usual, Yap promised to act and later sent a written report to the committee that the two airlines had agreed to restrict their flights over our community from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day including Sundays. He assured us that no flights would be allowed over the restricted area outside of that five-hour period.

This was the alternative adopted by the airlines in lieu of the other suggested solutions to our problem. The first was for both Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific to transfer, like PAL, to the Manila International Airport but this was rejected by them on the ground that they would spend more for aviation gas and higher maintenance fees. They also refused to install hush kits in their airplanes because these would cost a million pesos per vehicle, which they were unwilling to defray. Noise abatement equipment is obligatory in environment-conscious countries but not in ours where it is blandly dismissed as expensive and unnecessary.

The commitments solemnly made in writing by these two airlines have not been honored. They have in fact been habitually and disdainfully ignored in intentional insult to the residents of our communities and, no less contemptuously, the Senate committee on public welfare. We have complained to the Department of Transportation and Communications about these violations, but it has done nothing to correct them. The ATO, now under Nilo C. Jatico, another general, has required the offending airplanes to be properly hush-kitted and fly at a higher altitude when over the affected areas. But they have not heard him because of their noise.

Alparce has complained to Senator Arroyo and also to Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Juan Ponce Enrile who have shown their concern for the residents of Merville and the other afflicted communities. But we have so far proved to be no match against the affluent airlines that have been victimizing us with their unrestrained abuses. Even with the sincere help of the senators, never mind the token support of our ineffectual congressmen, we cannot compete against the expensive lobby of Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific with the questionable protection of the Air Transportation Office. We are just ordinary citizens with no power or influence against the High and the Mighty.


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