Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today vowed to further enhance the country’s air quality management program in the wake of a report that air pollution remains one of the three major health issues confronting the nation.
“The air quality throughout the country is generally getting better, although there is still a lot of work to do to get the air we breathe to healthful standard,” Paje said.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona has earlier cited that air pollution, rise in alcohol use and trauma from accidents are the leading health concerns in the country today at a meeting of health experts from the Western Pacific countries held recently at the Western Pacific Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Manila.
Noting that all three health problems “are attributable to preventable causes which can be acted upon viably to meaningfully address them,” Paje stressed that the country is already making progress to reduce particulate emissions in the air through implementation of programs that address pollution caused by motor vehicles and industries, imposition of ban in open burning and smoking ban in public places, including the designation of “airsheds” throughout the country.
“We shall proceed with resolve and optimism to bring the country’s air quality and public health care closer together, said Paje, adding that air pollution levels in Metro Manila have gone down.
Paje cited the improving trend in the level of total suspended particulates (TSP) for 2011 as against the TSP level in 2010 as recorded by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, which showed a 25-percent drop for the second quarter of 2011 at 125 micrograms per normal cubic meter (µg/Ncm) as against 166 µg/Ncm recorded for the same period last year.
A 20-percent drop was likewise posted for the 1st quarter of the current year at 131 µg/Ncm as against 163 µg/Ncm (1st quarter of 2010). TSP levels recorded for the third quarter of the year went down further at 120 µg/Ncm.
“Addressing air pollution problems and improving local air quality can only be achieved when all sectors of society work together,” Paje added.
To sharpen the effectiveness of the airshed model as a management tool for LGUs to bring down their air pollution levels, Paje issued DENR Administrative Order 2011-11 last Aug. 26 breaking down the “Metro Manila Airshed” into three separate airsheds, namely the National Capital Region (NCR) airshed, Cavite-Laguna Rizal airshed, and Bulacan-Pampanga-Bataan airshed.
The order effectively brings to 20 the number of airsheds in the country, with 15 as regular airsheds and three as “geothermal airsheds.”
Each of the airsheds shall be managed by a governing board composed of local government officials of the province; regional directors of the Departments of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Health (DOH), Trade and Industry (DTI), Interior and Local Government (DILG), Science and Technology (DOST), and Energy (DOE); and representatives from the private sector, peoples organizations, and non-government organizations. The airshed governing board would aid the DENR in checking air quality, setting up emission standards, determining penalties for violators in a particular airshed, drawing up of anti-pollution programs which may vary from one airshed to another.
Each board is mandated to develop a comprehensive action plan for its airshed based on the national guidelines set by the DENR. It is also responsible for the issuance of an Air Quality Status Report covering its airsheds.
Republic Act 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act under its Implementing Rules and Regulations requires the designation of airsheds to effectively manage the country’s air quality program.
Towns or cities in an airshed share common weather or meteorological conditions and sources of pollution such as industries or vehicles, which affect the spread diffusion of pollution in the atmosphere.
Other declared airsheds in the country include the Metro Tuguegarao Airshed (Region 2), Northeastern Pangasinan Airshed (R1), Makiling-Banahaw Geothermal Airshed and Baco-Naujan Calapan Airshed (Reg. 4), Bacon-Manito Geothermal Airshed (R5), Baguio-Latrinidad-Itogon-Tuba-Sabang Airshed (CAR), and Cagayan De Oro Airshed (R10).
Davao City Airshed (R11), Leyte Geothermal Airshed (R8), Metropolitan Iloilo Airshed and Southern Negros Geothermal Airshed (R7), Metro Cebu Airshed (R8), North Cotabato Geothermal Airshed and South Cotabato Airshed (R12), and Agusan Norte Airshed (CARAGA). Ayda Zoleta, PAO-DENR