The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is working on strengthening the air quality monitoring in the country by focusing not only total suspended particulates but also smaller particulate matter in the air.

According to DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, the DENR, through its Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), has started putting up air quality monitoring stations capable of gathering PM-10 (particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter) and PM-2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter).

“The Total Suspended Particulates (TSP) will still be monitored. But, we do recognize the importance of shifting to measuring PM-10 as the more appropriate indicator of the adverse impacts of air pollution on human health,” Paje said.

He stressed, however, that with the levels of TSP going down, the DENR can now focus more in coming up with concrete measures to address PM-10 and PM-2.5 pollution.

The DENR has already set up PM-10 monitoring stations in Metro Manila. There are 9 stations monitoring PM-10, 6 of which are manual and are situated in Caloocan, DOH-Manila, MRT-Pasay-Taft, Marikina, NPO-EDSA and MMDA-Guadalupe. There are 3 automatic stations and these are located at Radyo ng Bayan in Valenzuela City, Ateneo University and NAMRIA which also measures PM-2.5.

Based on EMB records, most stations showed readings that exceed the PM-10 annual guideline value of 60 microgram per normal cubic meter as provided for in the Philippine Clean Air Act. These are the stations at NPO-EDSA (74 ug/Ncm), Marikina (66 ug/Ncm), Pasay-Taft (130 ug/Ncm), Valenzuela-Radyo ng Bayan (64 ug/Ncm) and Caloocan-Partisol (168 ug/Ncm).

Paje added that the installation of additional monitoring stations on PM-10 and PM-2.5 is now underway. For 2012, the DENR will put up 7 more PM-10 and PM-2.5 stations, and eventually work towards setting up stations in all cities and municipality of Metro Manila in 2013.

Paje stressed the need for more intervention to achieve healthy air quality. This includes the enhancement of anti-smoke belching operations in Metro Manila; the adoption of more stringent emission standards for all types of motor vehicles; and stricter monitoring of private emission testing centers and motor vehicle inspection stations with the use of closed-circuit television or CCTV cameras.

In addition to this, the DENR is currently spearheading a campaign in partnership with the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and other government agencies and local government units through a Memorandum of Agreement signed last year to strengthen the implementation of the program to reduce air pollution from motor vehicular sources. PMA and KBP committed to help raise public awareness on the urgency of addressing the country’s worsening air pollution problem.

The DENR, in partnership with the PMA, other national government agencies, local government units and civil society, conducted a Clean Air Summit on 29 February, and participated in by close to 400 clean air advocates. The results of the said summit included the intensified anti-smoke belching program being done by various local government units in Metro Manila as well as the continuous awareness-raising activities spearheaded by PMA and KBP on the ill effects of air pollution on human health.