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Government gains ground in drive for cleaner air

MANILA, April 13 – The government has gained ground in the fight for cleaner air as Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje reported that the quality of air in Metro Manila has “considerably improved.”

Citing data gathered from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Paje revealed that the level of air pollution in the metropolis for the first six months of the Aquino administration, or during the second half of 2010, was reduced by 20 percent.

In 2009, Paje said the level of total suspended particulates (TSP) in Metro Manila was at 130 micrograms per normal cubic meters (μg/Ncm), or 44 percent more than the standard of 90 μg/Ncm.

For the first half of 2010, air pollution worsened to a level of 166 μg/Ncm, or 84 percent beyond the standard. But during the second semester of 2010, the TSP level declined to 133 μg/Ncm. Paje said that while the recorded TSP level remains still above the standard, it showed “significantly better air quality.” Seventy percent of air pollution in Metro Manila is attributed to vehicular emissions.

Paje attributed the improvement in the air quality to an invigorated partnership with other government agencies, such as the Land Transportation Office, the Metro Manila Development Authority, local government units, civil society and the private sector. In particular, he noted the partnership in the effort to rid Edsa of smoke belchers, including taking pictures of smoke belchers along the country’s busiest thoroughfare.

The environment chief further stated that under the present administration, the government was able to strengthen the regulation and enforcement of rules on air pollution, particularly with the setting of more stringent standards in air emissions.

Concerned government agencies have also been working together in implementing measures to reduce traffic, as well as to ensure compliance with emission testing prior to vehicle registration.

“All these we do, as we believe in the UN declaration that access to clean air and clean water is a basic human right,” Paje said.

He said that, having “inherited” polluted air in Metro Manila, the Aquino administration has always batted for cleaner air since day one because, as World Bank studies show, the exposure of 18 million Filipinos to air pollution causes health problems that lead to lack of productivity, translating to an annual loss of income amounting to P7.6 billion.

“We have always maintained that environmental protection is not the monopoly of government, and the current improvement in air quality is proof that the concerted efforts within a network of the government, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders have borne fruit. Certainly, everybody should inhale clean air and drink clean water,” said Paje.

President Aquino himself had observed the improvement when, during one of his speaking engagements at a local university, he noted that there are nights that he could look at the sky and already see gleaming stars. (PNA) DCT/FFC/PIA-PR/utb

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