• COA: Environment bureau met 2014 air pollution target

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    The Environmental Management Bureau-National Capital Region (EMB-NCR) was able to reduce air pollution or the level of total suspended particulates (TSP) by 5 percent in 2014, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

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    Based on a 2014 audit report by the commission, the EMB aimed for a 5-percent reduction in the TSP levels for 2014 with 2012 as the base of comparison.

    “The targeted 5-percent reduction in the level of total suspended particulate (TSP) was attained by EMB-NCR as of year-end,” the commission said.

    TSP is one of the indicators in measuring the quality of air.

    According to the EMB, TSP refers to “tiny airborne particles or aerosols that are less than 100 micrometers” which constantly enter the atmosphere from natural and human sources.

    The natural sources of TSP include soil, bacteria and viruses, fungi, molds and yeast, pollen, and salt particles from evaporating sea water. From human activities, the suspended particulates are produced by the combustion when heating a particular space, as well as through industrial processes, power generation, and motor vehicles.

    “The monitoring and sampling are being done by EMB nationwide to determine the level of pollutants. The results of the sampling and monitoring are reported to the LGUs [local government units], EMB-Central Office, and others concerned,” the commission said.

    “These reports are important, particularly as guide to LGUs concerning their implementation of programs and projects and their formulations of policies and ordinances especially for the protection of public health from the various impacts of air pollution. The results are also consolidated in the annual National Air Quality Status Report by the EMB-Central Office, which will be used in comprehensive air pollution management and control program,” it added.

    According to the audit report, bureau was able to reduce the level of TSP from 65 µg/Ncm (micrograms per normal cubic meter) in 2012 to 50 µg/Ncm in 2014 which meant a 23-percent reduction.

    It was also able to reduce the level of TSP in the roadside ambient from 126.75 µg/Ncm in 2012 to 114 µg/Ncm in 2014, which meant a 10-percent reduction.

    But while the EMB-NCR was able to attain the five-percent reduction in TSP level, the reduction cannot be determined in other regions according to COA.

    The auditors said that the reduction in TSP level cannot be determined in other regions because of “failure to conduct regular sampling and monitoring, and non-repair of the equipment for air monitoring station by EMB-CAR [Cordillera Administrative Region]… unavailability of service vehicle, equipment breakdown, bad weather condition and power failure in Region 3… malfunctioning of the equipment and inadequate technical personnel to do the monitoring in Region 11,” and “inadequacy of pollutants monitored by Region 12.”

    “Management [EMB] commented that the reduction of TSP has been targeted before because this was the only criteria pollutant being measured by EMB nationwide since 2004. TSP is measured manually every week and this is the basis for assessment of air quality in certain areas especially in the Highly Urbanized Centers (HUC) or Commercial Business District (CBD) per Region. When EMB started measuring PM10 in said areas, some Regions like Regions 11 and 12 shifted to PM10 instead of TSP due to the following reasons,” the audit report stated.

    According to the EMB’s website, PM10 (PM stands for particulate matter) refers to “suspended particulates less than 10 micrometers in diameter that include both fine and dust particles.”

    The reasons cited were: “Annual Guideline Value of TSP of 90 ug/Ncu.m. has been attained… PM10, being smaller in diameter, is more harmful to human health . . . and . . . To be more cost-effective.”

    “Likewise, cost of repair for TSP equipment is no longer cost effective because said equipment are already old. TSP equipment will now be used to establish compliance with TS ambient air quality standards by industries especially during complaints and permitting,” the audit report further stated.

    “EMB-Central Office conducts technical assistance to ROs [regional offices]regarding operation and maintenance of all ambient air monitoring equipment (manual and automatic) and for efficient and effective implementation of the ambient air monitoring network nationwide, the EMB Director has issued EMB Special Order No. 2015-219 designating the focal person and alternate focal person per Region to oversee day-to-day operation of the stations, among other,” it added.

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