QUEZON CITY, Philippines – In 1999, the Philippines enacted a groundbreaking regulation to safeguard air quality and protect human life from the dangers of air pollution. Twenty-five years later,  Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia, 350 Pilipinas, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), and the Health Alliance for Climate and Clean Air Philippines (HACCAP) have joined forces to organize a bike ride campaign celebrating the silver anniversary of the Philippine Clean Air Act. Supported by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), health professionals and their allies in the health and environment sectors gathered for the “Ride For Their Lives: Bike for Clean Air and A Healthier Future” campaign.

The campaign aims not only to raise awareness about the dangers of air pollution but also to demonstrate the healthcare sector’s commitment to driving tangible changes in policy and practice toward sustainable development and healthier lives for all Filipinos.

“As healthcare professionals, we must work for the best interest of our patients, their health, and safety, and promote wellness. We are all advocates of preventive care, and being at the forefront of fighting for clean air is one of our responsibilities. Doctors and other healthcare providers create a significant impact in leading this global fight against air pollution, which we all know adversely affects our health,” emphasized Dr. Felicia Racquel Salvador-Tayag, President of the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (PSAAI).

Joined by around 200 participants from the health sector, cycling groups, civil society organizations, and private individuals, the success of the ∼45-kilometer bike campaign highlights the urgency of addressing air pollution, a critical issue affecting everyone in the community.

Central to the campaign is the mobilization of health professionals to endorse the “Statement of Commitment and Collaboration for Clean Air and a Healthier Future in the Philippines,” which underscores the health sector’s dedication to combating air pollution. The DOH, DENR, together with over 40 medical societies in the Philippines, have officially demonstrated their commitment by signing the statement. At its core,  the collaborative statement calls for the alignment of our air quality guidelines with WHO recommendations, enhancement of air quality monitoring systems, promotion of active transportation solutions, and advocating for stronger international policies to address air pollution and climate change.

Guided by the calls set in the statement, the event was packed with activities in collaboration with both key government agencies. The bike ride campaign kicked off with an opening program at the DOH Central Office in Manila, where Dir. Lorra Angelia Sayson, Director of the Health Promotion Bureau, signed the commitment on behalf of the department. 

The group then biked to the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) in Quezon City, where the official program was held. Experts on health, environment, and air pollution were present to provide the audience with a deeper insight into the campaign’s key issues and calls to action.

Each year, approximately 7 million lives globally are tragically cut short due to the adverse impacts of air pollution. This silent menace disproportionately impacts the health and well-being of children and young people, as highlighted by Dr. Miriam Lalas, Head of the Air Pollution and Climate Change Subcommittee at the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP), during her presentation on the health impacts of air pollution. “Air is a shared resource and a public good. Therefore, the challenge with air pollution necessitates collective action,” Dr. Lalas further asserted.

The group proceeded to the compound of the Environmental Management Bureau at DENR, where Director Jacqueline A. Caancan signed the commitment on behalf of the department. After a short program at DENR, the group returned to the Lung Center for the closing ceremony and a press conference.

“We need to address the issue of air pollution at the source, which is fossil fuels. Majority of greenhouse gasses, [specifically] carbon dioxide, comes from energy and transportation. We believe that there is an imperative to address this through advocating for active transport, maximizing incentives for public transportation and infrastructure, and encouraging inclusive mobility. This means making the roads work to serve moving people from point A to point B, rather than providing space for cars,” highlighted Chuck Baclagon from 350 Pilipinas during the press conference.

“There is a need for more critical solutions. The health sector is well-positioned to lead the  advocacy for clean air and a healthier future. Ironically, despite being committed to the oath of doing no harm, the health sector is also one of the top carbon emitters globally. Thus, the health community has the strategic opportunity to establish best practices that can inspire and challenge other industries,” added Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director of HCWH SEA.

The participation of hundreds of bikers, including health professionals, and the commitment of over 40 medical organizations to the statement, demonstrate the success of the Ride For Their Lives campaign in mobilizing the health sector and its allies to advocate for clean air and a healthier future. 

Moreover, the involvement of both key government agencies, DOH and DENR, provides renewed hope about the continued implementation of the Philippine Clean Air Act. Twenty-five years on, we reaffirm its significance and recognize the need to reassess the Act’s provisions and guidelines, ensuring these efforts align with global initiatives in combating air pollution and climate change, while addressing the health and environmental needs of the Filipino community.

About the Organizers

Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia (HCWH SEA) is a regional office of HCWH, an international NGO that strives to transform health care worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint, becomes a community anchor for sustainability, and leads in the global movement for environmental health and justice. The organization’s work is centered around the mission of championing people’s right to health and a healthy environment.

Health Alliance for Climate and Clean Air Philippines (HACCAP) is a partnership between the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP), Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (PSAAI), Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP), and Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia (HCWH SEA). The aim of this initiative is to increase awareness of the impact of air pollution and climate change on health, conduct research in this area, and advocate for better policies and guidelines to safeguard public health in the Philippines.

350 Pilipinas is part of 350.org, an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-centered renewable energy for all. It is a network of volunteers supporting the Philippine climate movement, aiming to create a secure and promising future by empowering individuals and communities, fostering justice, prosperity, and equality, all while ensuring a climate-safe environment.

Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) is an international non-government group advancing fair climate policy and low carbon, climate-resilient development. Based in the Philippines, it is engaged with the wider international climate and energy policy arena, particularly in Asia. It is recognized for its role in helping advance effective global climate action and the Paris climate agreement.

Ride For Their Lives is an international collaboration of healthcare providers riding together to explore the actions we must take to protect the planet for our patients and children. Through their days of cycling, we build hope, develop resilience, celebrate success, and spark constructive conversation.

For Media Inquiries:
Portia Lapidario
Communications Associate, HCWH SEA
alapidario@hcwh.org | 09564321831 (SMS, Viber, Whatsapp)

Event Photos by Leo Sabangan II