The buck stops with the vehicle owner and not the driver.

That’s what a congressman wants to happen when it concerns smoke-belching vehicles that are caught plying the roads.

Rep. Alfredo D. Vargas III (5th District, Quezon City) seeks to amend Section 46 on Validation of Standards for Motor Vehicles of Republic Act No. 8749, also known as the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.

His proposal lies in House Bill No. 6298 that aims to change the status quo, which penalizes the driver and operator of the motor vehicle in violation of the emission standards. These vehicles are mostly trucks and public utility vehicles (PUVs).

The amendment seeks to educate the owner of the smoke-belching vehicle by making them undergo a seminar on pollution control and management conducted by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and then levy a penalty of one-year suspension of the motor vehicle and a fine of PhP 6,000 to PhP 10,000.

Congressman Vargas reasons that since the drivers and operators are employees of the owner, both have no control over the budget and regular maintenance of the vehicle they operate.

"With the driver held liable, owners are not compelled to make the necessary vehicle repairs or part replacements in order to comply with the emission standards. Thus, the problem of smoke belching is not effectively addressed," Vargas said.

A report by the National Emission Inventory says that 85% of air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR) came from motor vehicles. This is a major contributor to cardiovascular and respiratory disease that cost Filipinos millions of pesos annually to treat.

"While the Philippine has enacted laws to attain clean and healthy air quality, further policy review is still needed as these statutes have proven to be inadequate in solving the country’s air pollution problem," added Vargas.