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Gov't agency turns around, admits Metro air polluted
Christine Gaylican, Philippine Daily Inquirer (4 Aug 2004)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES: POLLUTION has worsened in Makati, Quezon City and Valenzuela, contrary to the sweeping statement of the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) last week that the air quality in Metro Manila was "within acceptable levels."

"Pollution levels are up in these cities and, therefore, unhealthy and could cause respiratory illnesses," EMB engineer Cesar Siador said at a press briefing yesterday.

But data furnished the media at the briefing showed that Manila, Mandaluyong, Pasig and Pasay -- four cities that form part of the metropolis -- passed the acceptable total suspended particulates (TSP) level of 230 per microgram. TSP is a measure of pollution.

The EMB made the turnaround after concerned residents of the metropolis and the media, including the Inquirer, challenged the findings contained in a press release the bureau issued on July 27.

"The quality of air we breathe in Metro Manila and some parts of adjacent provinces is within the policy standards that safeguards human health and the environment," read the EMB statement.

Gozun orders review

Environment Secretary Elisea Gozun has instructed the EMB to review its report, saying that the data released earlier did not include the results of the manually monitored air quality in hot spots like EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue), Rizal Avenue and Taft Avenue.

"Admittedly, this fact should have been emphasized in the press release. Secretary Gozun urged all DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) officials to carefully present all facts, including limitations when they issue official reports about the environment, in order to avoid misinterpretation," a DENR statement said.

The EMB, which is headed by Julian Amador, is an agency under the DENR.

Gozun said the EMB report released last week cited the "data from eight monitoring stations for the ambient air in the airshed, which measures many pollutants but not total suspended particles."

Exceeds acceptable levels

Siador, who was the only EMB official present at the press briefing, said Makati, Quezon City and Valenzuela failed the EMB monthly air quality monitoring in July.

The data the EMB presented yesterday showed that ambient air quality over Makati, Quezon City and Valenzuela exceeded the acceptable level of 230 TSP/microgram.

Siador said the results were based on data gathered from eight new air quality monitoring stations across Manila.

Hot spots

Siador noted that these cities were to be considered "hot spots" and that stricter rules and monitoring for vehicle smoke-belchers and industrial fumes should be imposed.

In Makati City, the TSP was 270. On Congressional Avenue in Quezon City the TSP was 290 and in Valenzuela it was 260. The acceptable TSP level is 230.

Aside from the huge volume of traffic plying these cities (at least 15,000 vehicles), factories have also contributed to the pollution, according to Siador.

The weather also has a significant impact on the levels of pollution in urban areas, according to Siador.

"The monsoon rains definitely clear our air. The humid weather induces a dirtier air," he noted.

Siador's team based its reports on the monthly data collected by the ambient air quality monitoring stations placed in specific locations within Metro Manila and some parts of Regions 3 (Central Luzon) and 4 (Calabarzon and Mimaropa).

He said there should be additional monitoring stations for a more accurate data but at least P100 million worth of equipment would have to be acquired.

The existing eight monitoring stations were put up through a loan from the Asian Development Bank. The stations are located in Ateneo-Katipunan, Fort Bonifacio, PUP-Sta. Mesa, Valenzuela, Cavite, Los Baños in Laguna, Batangas and the Clark Economic Zone.

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