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Air quality significantly improving; earth healing itself due to quarantine

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By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

The sudden drastic slowdown in activities in the Philippines and other countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic is allowing the earth to heal itself from environmental degradation.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu speaks at the “Tatak ng Pagbabago 2019: The Pre-SONA Forum” at the SMX Convention Center Davao on Wednesday, (RTVM / MANILA BULLETIN)

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu
(RTVM / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a statement on Wednesday,  Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that the major cause of climate change, which is air pollution mainly due to industrial and transport-related carbon emissions, is being abated significantly.

He also highlighted the reduced volume of waste in public places because people are in strict home quarantine while factories, offices, buildings and businesses like restaurants are closed.

Air quality in the metropolis has improved substantially in recent days, with Metro Manila and Luzon having been placed under enhanced community quarantine measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, Cimatu said.

The air quality information system of the DENR’s Environment Management Bureau (EMB) reported a significant drop in the concentration of particulate matter (PM) in Metro Manila’s air quality based on the results gathered from air monitoring stations in the cities of Las Piñas, Marikina, Muntinlupa, and Parañaque.

Particulate matter is an indicator of air pollution. PM10 is 10 micrometers or less in diameter, while PM2.5 is finer or 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter.

On March 22, the 24-hour average level for PM10 in Las Piñas and Marikina went down to 31.67 and 27.21 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Ncm) from a high 57.81 and 31.28 ug/Ncm, respectively, on March 9. The acceptable threshold standard level of PM10 is 60 ug/Ncm.

In Muntinlupa and Parañaque, PM2.5 levels on March 22 were recorded at 10.78 and 14.29 ug/Ncm, respectively—much lower when they were recorded at 28.75 and 27.23 ug/Ncm, respectively, on March 10.

Based on DENR Administrative Order No. 2013-13, the acceptable limit for PM2.5 is 50 ug/Ncm for the short term 24-hour average level, and 35 ug/Ncm for the one-year average level.

PM2.5 particles usually come from emissions of motor vehicles, fossil fuel power plants, and wood burnings, while PM10 specks come from emissions of crushing and grinding machines and dust from cemented and dirt roads.

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