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DENR chief pitches good governance vs. dirty air

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, June 17 (PNA) — Environment Chief Ramon Paje has challenged airshed governing boards nationwide to increasingly integrate good governance in the nationwide campaign for cleaner air.

"Sustainable air pollution management starts with good governance," he said.

He raised such challenge, noting airshed governing boards play a key role in reducing the country's air pollution.

By crafting and fully implementing air quality-improving measures, he said such boards can help protect the environment and public health, both of which are essential to the country's development.

"Good governance is the basic building block for development," he noted.

In a message for this week's Clean Air Forum which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) supported, Paje reiterated his call for all sectors to increasingly help advance the nationwide campaign against dirty air.

He noted adverse public health impacts of air pollutants like particulate matter (PM) continue fueling urgency for all sectors' action.

"We need to bring the fight for clean air several steps further," he said.

Clean Air Asia Deputy Executive Director Glynda Baterinaacknowledged government's advances in its anti-air pollution campaign over the years.

She earlier highlighted the need for further action against air pollution, particularly in the country's leading urban center Metro Manila.

Studies show almost one-fourth of people living in Metro Manila are exposed to substandard air, she warned.

"The air we breathe has high concentration of PM which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses," she said.

Exposed to such concentration of about 60 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm) are densely populated areas and places near major roads, she noted.

Experts said PM includes "inhalable" coarse particles which have diameters larger than 2.5 micrometers and up to 10 micrometers (PM10) as well as fine particles with diameters 2.5 micrometers and less — smaller than the average human hair's diameter of about 70 micrometers.

As early as 2006, the World Health Organization already warned PM10 levels must be lower than 20 ug/Ncm to prevent ill health.

Reducing PM10 levels can slash mortality in polluted cities by as much as 15 percent annually, WHO also said.

According to WHO, particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest health problems because these can get deep into the lungs and may even reach the bloodstream.

Paje said health gains so far from implementing anti-air pollution measures, particularly in the transport sector, augur well for bolstering the clean air campaign.

Among such measures are implementing sulfur-lowering Euro 4 vehicle emission standards, expanding DENR's air quality monitoring and tightening the campaign against smoke belching, he noted.

"With efforts for reducing emissions from vehicular and stationary sources, we observed lower occurrences of diseases," he said.

With 19 percent decrease in air pollution, he noted experts reported a 29 percent reduction in morbidity cases involving airborne dust-related diseases.

"Two years after phase-out of leaded gasoline, only 34.6 percent of children were sampled to have levels beyond the recommended guideline value," he added. (PNA)

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