Gov't rolls out Metro Manila air monitoring portal
MANILA, Philippines – Starting next week, Metro Manila residents will be able to monitor their city's air quality level at an hourly or weekly basis.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will roll out on Monday, March 16, its hourly air quality monitoring feeds on a website accessible to the public.
Anyone may access the data by visiting the air quality monitoring portal of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). The portal, when launched, should show the air quality levels as measured by the 17 air quality monitoring stations spread out over Metro Manila.
The launch of the portal was delayed due to the difficulty of finding appropriate locations for the stations in some cities, said EMB Director Jonas Leones during a press briefing on Thursday, March 12. All stations were supposed to have been ready last December.
All 16 cities and one town in Metro Manila now have air quality monitoring stations, equipment that resemble a small, metal house that measure air quality using 3 different units of measurement.
Of these, 12 are "automatic" or capable of sending hourly data to the EMB central office in Quezon City via the Internet.
Five are still manual, meaning the data is still transferred by physical documents to the EMB and only at the end of the week.
EMB's engineer Tess Peralta said these 5 will be upgraded with automatic monitoring equipment by April.
|Caloocan||North Caloocan City Hall, Zapote Street, Barangay 177, Caloocan City|
|Las Piñas||Rohm and Hass Property, Las Piñas City|
|Makati||Makati Park, Dr Jose P. Rizal Extension, East Rembo, Makati City|
|Malabon||Polytechnic Institute, Malabon City|
|Marikina||Parking Area of Marikina Justice Hall, Marikina City|
|Mandaluyong||Hardin ng Pagasa, Mandaluyong City Hall, Plainview, Mandaluyong City|
|Navotas||Navotas City Hall M. Naval St, Navotas City|
|Parañaque||Don Bosco Barangay Hall, Better Living Subdivision, Parañaque City|
|Pasay||NAIA Terminal 2, Pasay City|
|Pasig||Country Lodge, Oranbo, Pasig City|
|Muntinlupa||Bureau of Corrections, New Bilibid Prison Reservation, Muntinlupa City|
|Pateros||Pateros Elementary School, Pateros City|
|San Juan||Pinaglabanan Shrine, San Juan City|
|Taguig||Technological University of the Philippines, Taguig Campus, Taguig City (on-going installation)|
|Manila||De La Salle University, Taft, Manila|
|Valenzuela||Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela, Valenzuela City|
|Quezon City||Department of Public Works and Highway, EDSA, Quezon City|
The monitoring stations measure air quality using 3 indicators: Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, PM10, and Total Suspended Particulates (TSP).
PM2.5, said Peralta, measures the most dangerous type of air-polluting particles – particles small enough to enter the bronchial tubes of the lungs and cause severe respiratory diseases.
PM10 measures particles which are small enough to enter the nasopharynx in the upper portion of the esophagus.
TSP, meanwhile, measures particles bigger than PM10 – the dirt that usually settles in your nostrils.
The DENR plans to add more monitoring stations in different parts of the country. This year, it is purchasing 37 more stations – 7 for the National Capital Region and the rest to be distributed to other regions.
To make it easy for the public to understand, an air quality index will be used. Air quality levels will be graded accordingly:
- Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
- Very Unhealthy
- Acutely Unhealthy
The stations are located in areas which give the most "accurate" idea of what the city's air pollution levels are, said Leones.
Thus, they are not located near busy streets since air pollution levels tend to spike during rush hour and dip on holidays or Sundays. These extreme fluctuations will make the recorded air quality level "unnatural and unrealistic," said Leones.
The stations, each costing P3 million ($68,000), are able to measure air pollution within 2 kilometers of its location.
The DENR is in talks with media outlets to include the air quality measurements in weather reports of news programs to increase public awareness on air pollution.
Leones said air pollution is one of the major environmental programs of the Aquino administration.
"This is one of the department's promises to the President. By 2016, Metro Manila must meet international standards on air quality," he said.
From January to July 2014, Metro Manila's air pollution level in terms of TSP was 136 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm). The international standard for safe air is 90 ug/Ncm.
The latest PM10 measurements shows that, in terms of PM10, slightly more than half of 13 stations (7 out of 13) measured "fair" air quality. This means air quality within the range of 55 to 154 ug/Ncm.
The international standard for PM10 is 60 ug/Ncm. For PM2.5, the international standard is 35 ug/Ncm.
Pressure for LGUs
Equipping all Metro Manila local government units (LGUs) with air monitoring stations is an effort to connect pollution with governance, said Leones.
The program was completed in time for the 2016 elections.
"LGUs will see, this is how high their air pollution is. This is already an appreciation and recognition of the problem. By means of informing the public, they will be clamoring for action. This is pressure for the LGUs to act," he said.
Dirty air may turn off Investors, entrepreneurs, and potential residents from making business or putting up their homes in that city.
To reinforce this, the EMB aims to send letters twice a month to LGU officials with worrisome air pollution levels.
This will hopefully mobilize them into action. But he also called on citizens to be proactive in demanding clean air from their mayors and councilors.
Around 80% of dirty air in Metro Manila comes from motor vehicles, said Leones. The remaining 20% comes from stationary sources, like construction sites and industries.
DENR only has jurisdiction over stationary sources, making it difficult for them to fulfill their promise of safe air for the metro. – Rappler.com