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Friday, April 26, 2019

‘Haze’ hits Cebu

IF you see mist around Cebu’s skyline, it should not be a cause for alarm, a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 official said.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) reported that Cebu’s skylines are covered in “haze,” an atmospheric phenomenon where dust, smoke and other dry particles obscure the clarity of the sky.

A professor of the University of San Carlos (USC) also supported Pagasa’s observation, even warning the public of the presence of pollutants that come with the haze.

Al Quiblat, Pagasa Mactan Station chief, warned that the haze could affect Cebu, particularly inbound air travel.

He said he received calls from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) that some planes are having trouble landing at the Mactan Cebu International Airport due to the haze.

In a text message, CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss confirmed that the haze is already affecting airline operations.

“Because of hazy weather conditions in Mactan since Sunday, Visual Flight Rules (VFR) has been suspended. This means only airline operations using airplanes with instrument flying capabilities are allowed to take off and land in Mactan. Small airplanes without instrument flying capabilities will not be allowed to take off and land,” he said.

Hotchkiss said, though, that no flight has been cancelled or suspended because of the situation.

Although they plan to look into the phenomenon, officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 assured the public that they are still breathing clean and healthy air.

Quiblat told Sun.Star Cebu that the haze affecting Cebu might be due to the effect of wildfires that occurred in Sumatra, Indonesia last month.

Quiblat said that he and other weather specialists noticed that the haze in Cebu has reached a point where you can no longer see beyond 10 kilometers from the ground.

He said the haze could worsen due to the southwest monsoon winds or habagat hitting the country.

Aside from visibility, the haze could also affect one’s health.

Engr. Ramir Jarabis, a faculty member of the USC Chemical Engineering Department, said that the haze is a result of an “atmospheric inversion” wherein pollutants and other gases from the ground cannot go through the atmosphere due to pressure, resulting in accumulation.

Jarabis, who conducted a research on air quality and air pollution, said that the low pressure area hovering over Cebu aggravates the situation.

He said that Pagasa’s theory that the wildfire in Indonesia is causing the haze could be possible.

Jarabis said that while he does not know what types of gas are accumulated during the inversion, he believes that some of them are considered pollutants and harmful to the body.

“It’s possible that the incidence of respiratory illnesses would increase if the people are exposed,” he said. He advised the public to wear masks if it worsens.

Aside from advising the public to be cautious, Jarabis also urged the National Government to take a closer look at the situation.

But based on the latest results of the air quality monitoring in six strategic areas in Metro Cebu conducted by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7, air quality in Metro Cebu is within standards from “fair” to “good,” said DENR 7 spokesperson Eddie Llamedo.

Llamedo said that even their central office in Manila commented that the haze being experienced in other Southeast Asian countries has not reached the Philippine Area of Responsibility.

“It’s impossible that the episode will be experienced here in the Philippines considering the distance, wind velocity and dispersion level,” he said.

Llamedo also said that the EMB Manila has the equipment that detects haze episodes and they are regularly monitoring the situation.

“So far, there are no traces or pieces of evidence (of a haze). This is something we should not be alarmed about,” he said in a text message to Sun.Star Cebu.
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