THE Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed on Wednesday that the death of two people in General Santos City in South Cotabato was not caused by the haze from Indonesia.
Health Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin said the asthma attack of the patients did not coincide with the time there was a spike in particulate matter or PM2.5 in the atmosphere as measured by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
The small dust particle or PM2.5 is considered to be more hazardous than the bigger ones or the PM10 because it can enter the lower part of the lungs and the blood vessels.
The patients were both male, aged 49 and 52, and both had asthma.
Maysheen Collong, EMB Region 12 information officer, said the level of fine particulate matter in the air was at 2.5 micrometers and below in diameter or PM2.5 this week.
But last week the level reached as high as 83 micrograms per normal cubic meter, exceeding the standard 75 ug/Ncu.m.
Collong said the PM2.5 level in Koronadal City has dropped to 46.433 ug/Ncu.m. while in General Santos the reading was at 29.913 ug/Ncu.m as of Monday morning.
She said the PM2.5 levels in both areas significantly dropped starting Friday based on their monitoring.
“Masyadong malaki ang posibilidad that the death of these two patients is not directly related to the haze. Nagkataon lang na nandoon na sila sa hospital na medyo kritikal. Doon na lumalabas yung haze pero mababa pa lang ang level. Yung nagspike yung level ng particulate matter, sumakabilang buhay na sila [There is a big possibility that the death of the two patients is not directly related to the haze. It just so happened that they were at the hospital and were in critical condition. This was at the time when the particulate matter level was low. They passed away before there was a spike in the level of particulate matter],” Garin said.
Agripino Dacera, General Santos City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, confirmed this, adding that the cause of death of the two patients was asthma.
“Based on our evaluation these two people were already suffering their respiratory breathing since the haze have not yet reached our city,” he added.
Dacera also said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional office in Koronadal City conducted air sample testing at the General Santos City international airport area.
The test showed that the air pollution caused by the haze is not hazardous and that it was just at the level of normal smoke.
Dante Arriola, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) acting chief in Koronadal City, said on Wednesday that the haze has started to dissipate as the northwest winds intensified.
Anna Collado, supervisor of the Office for the Transportation Security under the Transportation Security Risk Management Bureau based at the Cotabato Airport said flight operations have returned to normal.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Pagasa said “reports of visibility at Pagasa stations, light haze to clear atmosphere was observed all over the country.”
Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali told ABS-CBN that local government units may suspend classes, should the haze from Indonesia affect their respective areas.
He added that school superintendents and principals may suspend classes, depending on their assessment of the situation as they are trained to ensure the safety, health and well-being of students.
Umali said they are studying the possibility of suspending all outdoor activities such as the flag raising ceremonies and outdoor Physical Education classes.
Garin, however, advised residents in haze-affected areas to stay indoors, especially children and the elderly, to avoid exposure and the development of irritation and other health complications from the haze, particularly from the smaller particulate matters.
The public is also advised to wear N95 masks instead of ordinary ones when going out because it can filter out 95 percent of the particulate matters.
WITH JACQUELINE BOUVIER ARIAS, IZA IGLESIAS, JULMUNIR JANNARAL AND FRANCIS EARL CUETO