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Three-pronged strategy seeks cleaner air in Metro Manila

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, Sept. 18 (PNA) — The environment department's Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) set a three-pronged strategy in addressing Metro Manila's worsening air pollution to help better protect public health.

Aside from continuing anti-smoke belching activities, EMB OIC Director Jonas Leones said the strategy covers compliance with Euro 4 motor vehicle emission standards and a Metro Manila-wide ban on private motor vehicles aged 15 years and older.

"I think if we can implement those, about 80 percent of air pollution can be addressed," he said Thursday (Sept. 18) during a forum in Metro Manila.

Leones noted EMB's three-pronged strategy focuses on the transport sector as studies show motor vehicles or mobile sources account for some 80 percent of Metro Manila's air pollutants.

Latest available data show area sources like construction sites and stationary sources like factories account for the rest of air pollutants, he continued.

WHO defines air pollution as "contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere."

"Both short- and long-term exposure to air pollutants have been associated to health impacts," WHO also said. "More severe impacts affect people who are already ill. Children, the elderly and poor people are more susceptible."

Among Metro Manila's air pollutants are total suspendedparticulates (TSPs) measured in micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm).

Information materials distributed during the forum show Metro Manila's TSP level already declined from 166 ug/Ncm during the January-June 2010 period to 118 ug/NCM in the July-December 2012 period.

The TSP level rose in succeeding months, however, reaching 136 ug/Ncm during the January-June 2014.

"Such level is way beyond the 90 ug/Ncm WHO guideline value," noted Leones.

He also said level of particulate matter in Metro Manila still exceeds the 60 ug/Ncm guideline value for this air pollutant.

"Particulate matter is dangerous to health – being so small, our nostrils can't filter these," he said.

By implementing Euro 4 standards nationwide beginning mid-2015, Leones said EMB aims to further help bring forth cleaner vehicle emissions.

Such target schedule is about six months earlier than Jan. 1, 2016 which the environment department's Department Administrative Order 2010-23 set as starting date when "all new passenger and light duty motor vehicle types to be introduced in the market shall comply with Euro 4 emission limits subject to Euro IV fuel availability."

The environment department deemed it necessary to advanceimplementation of Euro 4 standards for gas- and diesel-powered vehicles to help reduce sulfur in emissions from these and to clean up the air earlier.

"Euro 4 is achievable," noted Leones.

EMB's proposed ban on motor vehicles 15 years old and over aims to reduce volume of vehicles in Metro Manila so there's less chance for transport-induced air pollution, Leones continued.

"Despite proper maintenance, older vehicles are still more pollutive than newer ones," he said.

Leones said EMB is awaiting the transportation department's decision on the proposal.

"Motor vehicles aged 15 years and older can be used outside Metro Manila, however," he clarified.

According to WHO, air pollution increases people's risk for respiratory and heart disease.

Coalition of Clean Air Advocates (CCAA) also said some air pollutants help trap heat in the atmosphere so temperature rises, resulting in climate change.

Climate change's impacts on the Philippines are onslaught of extreme weather events as well as sea level and temperature rise, experts warned.

"Yearly, we're increasingly seeing onslaught of such events," CCAA Vice-President Henry Tan said during the forum.

He noted such development raised urgency for addressing air pollution.

Running priest Fr. Robert Reyes continues promoting tree-planting as a means to help address air pollution.

"The more trees there are, the better the air will be for us," he said during the forum.

Government must spearhead creating more green open spaces to help promote walking and other non-pollutive, non-motorized ways that people can do to reach their destinations, he reiterated.

He cited Singapore as an example of such green mobility.

Earlier, EMB partnered with Philippine Medical Association and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas on bolstering government's crackdown against smoke belchers.

EMB anti-smoke belching coordinator Jerry Capulong said the agency continues undertaking such crackdown.

"We're also assisting LGUs on the matter," he said during the forum.

He noted that around 90 percent of smoke belchers EMB catches fail to pass government's vehicle emission standards. (PNA)


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