Air quality in Metro Manila has improved but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said there’s a need to put up more air quality monitoring stations while maintaining all 33 existing air quality-monitoring stations.
Juan Miguel Cuna, DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations in Luzon and Visayas, told the BusinessMirror in a telephone interview that it will cost around P5 million to P10 million depending on the gadget to put up in an air quality monitoring station.’
According to Cuna, air quality on Monday and Tuesday has improved considerably, compared to what was experienced last Thursday and Friday, with readings in most cities indicating air quality is “good.”
On Thursday and Friday, air quality in Metro Manila suffered due to smog, while in parts of Calabarzon, smog was aggravated by volcanic dusts emitted by the restive Taal Volcano. The smog and vog in the NCR and Calabarzon prompted local government units (LGUs) to suspend classes and issue emergency public health advisories, such as the wearing of face masks and staying at home to avoid health problems.
Except for one or two areas where air quality is fair, almost all areas in Metro Manila have now better air quality, which classified PM2.5 and PM10 levels to be good.
Cuna said the DENR needs to rehabilitate, if not upgrade its existing air quality monitoring stations and acquire more units to be put up in strategic locations.
“The last time we bought a unit for air quality monitoring was in 2016. We are continuously requesting for budget to put up air quality monitoring stations,” said Cuna.
He said the DENR would ask Congress to allocate budgets to boost the capacity of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), which he once held as director, in monitoring air pollution in major cities.
According to Cuna, the DENR is looking at partnering with the private sector for the maintenance of the existing air quality monitoring station gadgets.
“We need he help of the private sector to maintain our air quality monitoring stations. Aside from electricity and internet, we need to secure and protect these facilities,” said Cuna.
Budget-wise, the DENR official said the DENR is hoping for an additional budget for the purpose of strengthening its air quality monitoring capacity, as well as other regulatory functions, as part of its mandate to implement the Clean Air Act.
“We continuously ask Congress for budget allocation for our air quality,” he said, adding that with the recent smog that blanketed Metro Manila was due to smoke from motor vehicles plying Metro Manila coupled with fog, which was aggravated by thermal inversion.
The last two are natural phenomena but smoke-belching vehicles are to be blamed for the emission of smoke from motor vehicles, underscoring the need for the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Local Government Units (LGUs) to revive the crackdown on smoke belchers.
Air pollution brought about by smoke from motor vehicles can cause a number of health problems, such as heart attacks. It can also trigger asthma, while long-term exposure can lead to lung cancer.
Health experts advised the public to stay at home and wear facemasks all time when in Metro Manila when the air quality is poor, due to smog, or vog in the case of volcanic activity that aggravates pollution caused by smog.
The DENR is proposing a total budget of P24,571,827,000 for 2024 on top of the P1.1 billion automatic appropriations for the agency under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) prepared by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Specific for programs to improve air quality, the DENR is proposing a budget of P145 million for 2024, but this does not yet include appropriations for additional air quality monitoring stations.