Legarda: Sustain Clean Air after COVID-19 Pandemic

April 1, 2020

Deputy Speaker and Antique Congresswoman Loren Legarda today called on the national and local governments to ensure that the air quality in Metro Manila and urban regions becomes healthier even after the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), which was imposed due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Legarda cited figures showing a substantial decrease in levels of particulate matter (PM)—which refers to a mixture of solid particles or liquid droplets in the atmosphere capable of penetrating deep into lung passageways and entering the bloodstream causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory impacts—in different parts of Metro Manila.

According to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the air quality in Metro Manila is “improving”, recording “good” or “moderate/fair” levels of PM10 (inhalable particles 10 micrometers or smaller in diameter) in various cities. Meanwhile, according to the Environmental Pollution Studies Laboratory of the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, data gathered from airtoday.ph stations shows that the levels of PM2.5 (2.5 micrometers or smaller) decreased by 80 to 180% at the Lung Center of the Philippines compound, and by 70 to 90% as measured along EDSA Muñoz, from two weeks to days prior the ECQ.

“The improvement in our air quality may just be temporary and would likely see a reverse when industries, businesses, transportation, and daily activities resume. This health crisis, although truly unfortunate, provided us a glimpse on the quality of air we and our families could be enjoying if our economy utilizes more of the clean sources of energy and not fossil fuel,” said Legarda, who also authored the Clean Air Act and Renewable Energy Act.

Legarda cited the World Health Organization (WHO) report that air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year and that nine out of ten people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. In the Philippines alone, 120,000 Filipinos die every year because of air pollution.

Legarda also said that air pollution, which causes long-term ailments such as asthma, and impairs children’s cognitive development, costs societies across the globe USD5 trillion annually. She also reiterated UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ earlier call to help address air pollutants that cause global warming, such as black carbon from diesel engines and trash burning, and that reducing emissions from such could help alleviate global warming by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius over the next few decades.

“As we exert all efforts to contain this pandemic, let us also be reminded to pursue and embrace sustainable principles and practices in our communities and homes. Let our environmental laws urge us to take care of our environment as our means to ensure public safety and health for the present and future generations,” Legarda concluded.#