Cebu News

Anti-smoke belching campaign intensified: Haze also affecting Bohol, Negros

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Environmental Management Board-7 yesterday sent a memorandum to all governors in Central Visayas recommending the purchase and use of protective gears.

The local chief executives were also advised to issue health advisories and come up with a resolution to allocate a budget for the purchase of N95 masks for their constituents, especially that the problem is already affecting other provinces in the region.

EMB-7 Director William Cuñado said they will send two teams to Bohol and Negros Oriental today to conduct air sampling in strategic locations in both provinces following reports of haze there. 

Each team will bring one unit of High Volume Air Quality Sampler to be used.

Cuñado said Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto called him up yesterday informing about haze already blanketing Jagna town.

The EMB also received similar information that Negros Oriental is also affected by haze.

In Metro Cebu, the current quality of air is still not safe to breathe because of the high concentration of haze particulates engulfing the area.

To help address the situation, the Cebu City Transportation Office intensified its campaign against smoke belchers due to the presence of “smaze”, or the combination of smoke and haze.

CCTO Executive Director Rey Gealon said that in five days, traffic enforcers have issued 60 citation tickets to public and private vehicles for violating City Ordinance 2111 (Anti-Smoke Belching Ordinance).

He said that before they intensified the enforcement of the ordinance, his office issued an average of just eight citation tickets a day.

“We have to contribute something good for the environment and this is the best the office knows how—to at least minimize carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles,” he said.

Under City Ordinance 2111, violators are fined P1,000, P3,000, and P5,000 for first, second and third offense, respectively, or two months imprisonment or both penalties.

He said the 60 citation tickets were issued during CCTO’s roadside emission testing from October 19 to October 23, with most of those caught were public vehicles.

CCTO’s operations, though, is hampered by the lack of equipment, as it currently only has one set of mobile machine for the emission testing.

“We are transferring from one street to another. Mangita mi og area nga dili mi makabalda sa traffic pod,” he said, adding that his office will continue the intensified campaign even after the smaze currently blanketing the city would already vanish.

Gealon advised drivers to be always “conscious and conscientious,” conducting regular engine check, preventive maintenance, and change oil of their vehicles, especially for those with diesel engines.

In a 3:15 pm update of its continuous ambient air quality monitoring data yesterday, EMB-7 said small dust particles or particulate matter (PM) measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter reached an average value of 85.70 µg/Nm3 within a 24-hour observation period.

This went beyond the allowable limit of 75 µg/Nm3 based on the National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values, as provided for under Republic Act 8749 (Philippine Clean Air Act).

The same finding was reflected in last Saturday’s air samples results, with PM measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter reaching an average of 105 µ/Nm3.

EMB also said concentration of dust particles or PM measuring 10 micrometers in diameter also went beyond the allowable limit of 150 microgram per Normal cubic meter (µ/Nm3) which is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Cuñado said the situation worsened because wind speed right now is very slow at 0.36 kilometer per hour or 0.1 meter per second.

“Still winds reduce the mobility of pollution particles aggravating the haze occurrence,” he said, adding that “dangerous ambient air remains stagnant in the atmosphere, which is hard to dissipate without strong winds and heavy rains.”

“At this point of time, our air is not yet safe,” he said in yesterday’s press conference.

The problem is also already affecting other provinces as well.

In yesterday’s press conference, Cuñado said they cannot yet determine what time of the day is safe for people to go out, saying, “Based sa atong climate, with unstable wind velocity and temperature, we cannot really tell.”

He said, though, that the situation in Cebu here is caused by winds bringing in smoke from the forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia.

 “Wa’y laing big source other than the fires in Indonesia. This is proven by the very fine concentration of pollutants examined,” he said.

Cuñado advised the public, especially those with respiratory ailments, to buy protective gears like industry goggles, industry masks, or N95 masks.

An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. This can be bought at the local pharmacies at P55.

If one is tight on budget, Cuñado advised the pubic to use wet handkerchief instead, but reminded that it should be constantly wet to prevent the inhalation of tiny particles.

 He said pedestrians should also avoid areas where heavy traffic is prevalent, as they would be exposed to a more heavy concentration of pollutants. — / RHM (FREEMAN)













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