CEBU

Briones: Something in the air

On the Go

It has been unusually humid the past few days with the sun playing hide and seek beneath the clouds that have blanketed the city.

At first sight, it looks like fog has obscured the hills that divide the island in half.

It got so bad on Tuesday, Sept. 17, that ambient air quality experts decided to check its source.

Some believe wildfires from Indonesia may be to blame.

That might explain why the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources wanted to take a closer look. It just wanted to make sure before it pointed a finger at our giant neighbor to the south.

If indeed winds had blown the smoke from forest fires that have been raging all the way in Sumatra, Java and the Indonesian part of Borneo, then local government units in Mindanao would have been first to complain. After all, geographically speaking, they are closer to the Indonesian archipelago than we here in Cebu are.

Or maybe our brothers and sisters in Mindanao are used to the phenomenon at this time of year. That’s why they don’t take much notice. It’s inexorable like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, as some would say.

Cindylyn Ochea, EMB 7 director, said they have deployed a team to collect samples of the emissions so they can determine if these are indeed trans-boundary pollutants from Indonesia.

Our southern neighbor has been allegedly setting its forests on fire to pave the way for massive plantations. The practice has been condemned by other countries in the region, particularly Malaysia and Singapore, which recently topped the list of worst air quality according to Swiss-based group AirVisual.

The situation has even caused a diplomatic row with Malaysia lodging a formal complaint last week.

Of course, the Indonesian government denied any wrongdoing. Oh no, none of its haze has traveled beyond its border, said Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s minister of Environmental Affairs and Forestry.

Excuse me? Did she have her fingers crossed when she released that statement because she’s asking the world to believe that Indonesia has somehow found a way to confine the haze within the country?

She reminded me so much of Filipino government officials who, despite being caught with their hands in the cookie jar, insist on their innocence.

Still, we in Cebu should take precautions.

EMB 7 Director Ochea advised those with respiratory problems “to stay indoors with good ventilation, wear dust masks and refrain from physical activity outside.”

I guess I now have a valid excuse for skipping my daily jog at the oval. pjbriones@sunstar.com.ph


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