Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu assured the public that his department will continue to strive to continue improving air quality amid renewed concerns about the impact of coal-fired power plants on the environment and public health.
“Intensive enforcement will continue to be a tool of the DENR to carry out its mandate to improve the quality of the air we breathe,” Cimatu said in a statement.
He gave the assurance after environmental advocates led by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) petitioned the Supreme Court to compel the Department of Environment Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to strictly regulate the operations of coal-fired power plants in the country.
Cimatu, who was appointed environment secretary in May, said that part of the DENR’s mandate is to make sure that environmental laws, including Republic Act No. 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, are fully implemented.
Cimatu said the DENR welcomes the petition filed by the PMCJ and its affiliates.
Without touching on the merits of the case, Cimatu said the DENR, through its Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), regularly reviews its policies designed to reduce air pollution and protect human health and the environment.
He noted that just last year, a new National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Value (NAAQGV) for particulate matter (PM) 2.5 or particle pollution less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter took effect.
“Pursuant to DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2013-13, the NAAQGV for PM2.5 is set at 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/Ncm) for an average of 24 hours or short term, and 25 µg/Ncm for an average of one year or long term, starting from January 2016,” Cimatu said.
PM2.5 is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health problems.
The environment chief said the establishment of NAAQGV is one of the safeguards put in place pursuant to the country’s clean air law to protect the public against air pollution, including those coming from coal-fired power plants.
“Coal-fired power plants are allowed, but we need to tell them the limit of their emissions. If they emit more than what we prescribe them, then we will close their operations. But if they do pass, they shall be allowed to operate because that is within the law,” Cimatu said.
Another safeguard, he said, is the installation of continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) as prescribed under different administrative orders issued in 2007.
At present, Cimatu said all 17 operating coal-fired power plants have their respective CEMS.
“One of the conditions under the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for power plants is to install CEMS. DAO 2017-14 requires the operation proponents to transmit data and images from its CEMS or cctv to EMB online information database system to ensure the disclosure of the emission results,” Cimatu said.