The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has vowed to be more aggressive in informing the public about the dangers of air pollution, with the new air quality monitoring system in Metro Manila now in place.

The DENR, through its Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), can now provide residents with the most up-to-date information about the air they breathe straight from the monitoring stations in 13 strategic locations in the metropolis.

EMB Director Gilbert Gonzales said DENR Secretary Gina Lopez's marching order was to intensify the information campaign against air pollution by providing regular updates to the public about pollution levels using various media like television, news websites and LED advertising displays.

Gonzales said the data gathered from the air quality monitoring stations will assist local government units (LGUs) in dealing with air pollution problems and help residents avoid the most dangerous air quality situations.

"By providing fast, accurate and regular updates on how good or bad the air is, local chief executives are better informed to make sound decisions in improving air quality in their areas of jurisdiction. The public is also advised of what they can do in cases when air quality gets really bad and affect their health," Gonzales said.

The DENR has already finished installing continuous ambient monitoring stations (CAMS) in 13 LGUs across Metro Manila, giving the public real-time measurement of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM 10), also known as particle pollution, and parameters like wind speed and direction.

Particle pollution includes fine particles that mainly come from motor vehicles, wood burning heaters and industry. During bushfires or dust storms, particle pollution can reach extremely high concentrations.

Gonzales said the DENR's focus is on the PM10 and PM 2.5 because of their health implications. Numerous studies have showed associations between exposure to particles and increased hospital admissions as well as death from heart or lung diseases.

The EMB-National Capital Region, which is in charge of monitoring and maintenance of all air monitoring stations, recently signed memorandums of agreement with Water Environment Association of the Philippines Inc., SM Supermalls, Megaworld and Star Petroleum Retailers Association Inc. for the adoption of CAMS as part of their corporate social responsibility or CSR activities.

According to EMB-NCR Director Vizminda Osorio, the partner donors donated data loggers that will be installed in the CAMS to record and transmit data to EMB headquarters or operation center for processing and dissemination to the public.

"We welcome partnerships with local government units, private sector and industry organizations to help us ensure that each monitoring station is well-maintained and data are maximized for public information,” Osorio said.

Each monitoring station provides an Air Quality Index (AQI), which is a color-coded tool for telling the public how clean or polluted the air is, and recommending steps people can take, if necessary, to reduce their daily exposure to pollution.

When the AQI is in green, it means that the air quality is good; yellow means fair; light brown for unhealthy for sensitive groups (children, the elderly and peope with cardio-pulmonary diseases); red for very unhealthy; and purple for acutely unhealthy.

If the index reaches light brown, red or purple, the public is advised to stay indoors and limit outdoor activity.

The guidelines for PM10 and PM2.5 are set at 150 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm) and 75 ug/Ncm, respectively based on 24-hour averaging.

The monitoring stations are located in the following areas: Hall of Justice, Open Ground, Marikina City Hall; Caloocan City Hall Annex, North Caloocan; Don Bosco Barangay Hall, Parañaque City; Pateros Elementary School, San Pedro, Pateros; Malabon Polytechnic Institute, Malabon City; Navotas City Hall, M. Naval Street, Navotas City; Rohm and Hass Warehouse Compound, CAA Road, Las Piñas City; Bilibid open ground compound, Muntinlupa City;

TUP Taguig Campus, East Service Road, Western Bicutan, Taguig City; Danny Floro Street, Oranbo, Pasig City; Plaza Hardin, Martinez Highway, Addition Hill, Mandaluyong City; PAL Compound, Pasay City; and Pinaglabanan Shrine along Pinaglabanan Street, San Juan City. ###