CEBU CITY: The regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) has said dust particles in Cebu’s air has gone beyond safe limits as “smaze,” a combination of smoke and haze, continues to hover over the central Philippine province.
The smaze has affected parts of Mindanao and the Visayas, including Metro Cebu.
William Cuñado, EMB regional director, on Monday said the amount of small dust particles or particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter in Cebu’s air reached 85.70 micrograms per cubic meter in a test on Sunday.
The limit is 75 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values of the Philippine Clean Air Act.
Cuñado said the agency has sent letters to the region’s governors along with the latest ambient air quality monitoring data.
He added that the data will guide the governors and mayors and give them a basis to procure N95 masks and protective goggles for constituents, especially those suffering from asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Cunado said the N95 mask is available in pharmacies while the protective goggles can be acquired in hardware stores.
According to him, those who cannot afford to buy N95 mask may use a wet handkerchief or towel.
He advised exercise buffs to avoid jogging or exercising outdoors as the smaze persists.
The air pollution caused by the haze can cause bronchitis, asthma, and even heart ailments.
The state weather bureau, Pagasa, said strong winds fanned by Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu) brought the smaze from Indonesia to the southern portion of the country.
Pagasa added that the storm’s southwest winds were strong enough to enable the smaze to Puerto Princesa City in Palawan on October 21 and slowly thickened.
The smaze has also reached Ormoc in Leyte, Koronadal in South Cotabato and Tagbilaran City in Bohol and Bacolod City.
Residents in Bohol have started wearing face masks as the smaze is visible on Panglao island and in Maribojoc town.
Based on data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) air quality monitoring stations, Koronadal has the most solid particles at 89 micrograms per normal cubic meter.
The EMB said the haze could reach Metro Manila depending on the direction of the wind.
The DENR is also monitoring air quality in Cotabato, Zamboanga and other provinces.
Flights remain normal
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said there was still no need to cancel flights.
Flights to and from Tagbilaran City in Bohol have gone back to normal after zero visibility conditions improved.
How to cope
The Department of Health (DOH) is advising the people, particularly the elderly, children and those with asthma or other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPDs) on ways of coping with the risks of haze.
According to DOH spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, the haze from the forest fires in Indonesia can cause air pollution, which can bring about increased risks for respiratory tract infections and cardiac ailments.
In the DOH advisory, Lee Suy said it is important for the vulnerable sectors of the population to stay indoors with good ventilation.
He added that it will help if appropriate dust masks will be worn when going outside the house.
Lee Suy said refraining from physical activities in heavily populated areas is another way to counter haze so that the body may gain and maintain its strength or natural immune system.
He further reminded that staying away from low-lying areas where smoke and suspended particles tend to accumulate can help.
“Tune in to the radio or television for more health advisories and most important, consult the doctor if there is difficulty of breathing, cough, chest pain, increase tearing of eyes and nose and throat irritation,” the DOH spokesman said.
He added that if a person feels something abnormal in his body, it is very important to seek consultation with a doctor for early treatment and better management.
The DOH official also reminded motorists that if they encounter haze on the roads, they should exercise extreme caution to prevent accidents.
He said that using headlights/fog lights is one way of exercising caution.
In addition, Lee Suy cited the importance of following the required minimum speed limit and ensuring that the vehicle is in good running condition.
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab has urged the government to order the Philippine Air Force to conduct cloud-seeding operations to fight the haze.
Ungab also on Monday said inducing rains would help in preventing the haze from spreading further.
“The government could help by inducing rains through cloud seeding. Perhaps the rains could stop the further spread of the haze,” he told reporters on Monday.