Indonesia haze reaches Metro Cebu

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Haze from forest fires in Indonesia has reached Metro Cebu, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas. 

"Metro Cebu is currently experiencing hazy weather condition caused by the forest fire in Indonesia and enhanced by [the] hanging habagat (southwest monsoon)," said the DENR's advisory posted on Wednesday, September 18.

The DENR's Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) monitored PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) at 56 micrograms per normal cubic meter in the air around Metro Cebu at around 8 am Wednesday morning. This is above the safe levels of 50 micrograms per normal cubic meter. 

Indonesia has been battling man-made forest fires for weeks on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, over 2,500 kilometers away from Cebu.

According to the EMB, PM2.5 is a particulate matter or a dust particle measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter (about 3% the diameter of a human hair).

"Since they are so small and light, PM2.5 tend to stay longer in the air than heavier particles. This increases the chances of humans and animals inhaling them into the bodies and might bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs. Some may even enter the circulatory system," the EMB's statement read. 

They recommended that residents minimize outdoor activity. When going outside, they recommended that people wear protective masks.

Typically, surgical masks and scarves are not enough to protect people from harmful pollutants due to smoke.  

The California Department of Health recommended N95, P95 and R95 2-strap protective masks when the US state was grappling with their own forest fires late 2018. (READ: Toll rises to 77 in deadliest California wildfire)  

N95 and R95 masks are also available in pharmacies and hardware stores around the Philippines.

The EMB also urged drivers to drive with more caution in areas with low visibility and to use their headlights. Those with respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses should avoid low-lying areas where smoke and suspended particles may settle.

Environment officials said they are unsure when the smoke will leave the area, but they will issue advisories regularly on air quality. –

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.