NEW Year's eve is usually greeted with polluted air from fireworks and firecrackers. The first day of 2021 however had a much cleaner air compared to previous years. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that the air pollution level in Metro Manila was reduced by as much as 59 percent compared last year. This is a good way to start the year!
DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu credits the cleaner air to the effective implementation of Executive Order (EO) 28 which limits the use of firecrackers to "community fireworks display." Strict health protocols also limited the movement of people. In Pampanga, the 10pm curfew was lifted but people were only allowed to loiter in front of their homes. In Metro Manila, MMDA reinforced EO 28 with Resolution 20-17, which prohibited individual and household use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices during General Community Quarantine.
Now for the statistics. Measurements done by DENR-EMB from its six monitoring stations show an average concentration of 87 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm) of Particulate Matter (PM 10) between 12 midnight of December 31, 2020 to January 1, 2021. Last year, these six monitoring stations yielded an average of 213 ug/Ncm. The short-term limit for PM10 is 150 ug/Ncm under RA 8749 or the Clean Air Act.
For the smaller and more dangerous pollutant called PM2.5, the EMB also reported significantly lower concentrations compared to last year, particularly for its station at the Muntinlupa Bilibid open ground which posted a maximum concentration of 12 ug/Ncm between 12 midnight to 2 a.m. of January 1, 2021. The short-term limit for PM2.5 is 35 ug/Ncm in the Clean Air Act.
PM2.5 pollutants are fine particles that can reach the lungs when inhaled, leading to respiratory and circulatory diseases, including brain damage and cancer. They are usually emitted by vehicles and burning plants. The use of pyrotechnics also releases these pollutants.
Congratulations are in order to retired DENR Asec. Ricardo L. Calderon who was appointed as Executive Director of the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCo). He is the first Filipino to assume this post. He will serve AFoCo for 2 years in its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. AFoCO is an intergovernmental organization that is committed to strengthening forest cooperation. It has 13 member countries, the Philippines included, and 2 observers.
Asec. Ric, a licensed Forester who placed 5th in the 1985 board exam, chose to retire after more than 30 years in government service so he can serve AFoCo. His last post at DENR was Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent Director, Biodiversity Management Bureau. He was assigned here in Region 3 initially as Regional Technical Director for Forestry but left after he was promoted and transferred to other regions. He returned to Region 3 as Regional Executive Director from August 2009 to June 2012.
Good luck Director Ric!