Air pollution: A public health concern in the Philippines

On World Environmental Health Day on September 26, 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines jointly highlight the environmental risk of indoor and outdoor air pollution to the health of Filipinos.

Air pollution is an environmental health risk around the world with 92% of the world’s population exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO’s ambient air quality guidelines. People in urban areas are more exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution than those in rural areas. Air pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, found in both indoor and outdoor settings, are extremely dangerous to people’s health.When the size of the particulate matter in the air is 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) and below, it penetrates to a person’s lungs and cardiovascular system.

According to WHO,the safe level for PM2.5is10 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) of air in a year. In Manila, the annual average of these pollutants is at 17 μg/m3, 70 percent more than the recommended safe level.

Globally, over six million deaths are linked to indoor and outdoor pollution due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory diseasesevery year. In the Philippines, about 1 in 4 deaths are attributed to air pollution.

The DENR, DOH, and WHO are taking steps to decrease the environmental health risk of air pollution including improving the linkage of air quality and health monitoring, reviewing the air quality index, and strengthening the health impact assessment for projects and activities that may cause air pollution. Starting this year until 2019, the Philippine government also leads the regional forum on health and environment, bringing together countries in the Asia-Pacific Region where air pollution is one of the agenda

“Air pollution affects each and every one of us,” said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. “We need stronger coordination and wider collaboration so we can once and for all solve our air pollution problem.”

“Air pollution continues to pose a dangerous threat to the health of the Filipinos, especially those living in urbanized communities,” said WHO Representative to the Philippines DrGundoWeiler. “With the health and environment sectors, we areworking together to reduce the harmful impact of these environmental risks to people’s health and well-being.”# # # 


Cimatu honors slain barangay captain, seeks help of AFP, police to combat illegal logging in Palawan

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu on Friday visited the wake of slain barangay captain Ruben Arzaga in El Nido, Palawan, honoring him as a ‘Bayani ng Kalikasan’.

“Saludo ako kay Kapitan Ruben, isinakripisyo niya ang kanyang buhay para protektahan ang ating kapaligiran. Dahil dito, itinuturing natin siyang Bayani ng Kalikasan,” Cimatu said.

Arzaga, 49, and an active member of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area Management Board, was shot dead by suspected illegal loggers whom he and a team of local environmental law enforcers were about to apprehend in Sitio Batbat, Villa Libertad on September 14, 2017.

Two of the suspects were later arrested and charged with murder and four counts of attempted murder.

Arzaga’s killing was the second attack on forest protection officers by illegal loggers and timber poachers in Palawan in three weeks' time.

It will be recalled that last Aug. 23, DENR forester Lito Eyala was shot by a suspected timber poacher while he and his team were patrolling in the mountains of Barangay Bacungan in Puerto Princesa City.

Eyala sustained two gunshot wounds in his back and nape. He underwent a surgery to remove the bullet lodged in his right jaw.

Cimatu denounced the two incidents of shooting of DENR’s forest protection officers by suspected illegal loggers, as he indicated his plan to strengthen the agency’s community environment and natural resources offices (CENROs), with the help of the military and the police forces.

“Patutulong tayo sa mga sundalo at pulis na sanayin ang mga foresters natin sa security protocol at sa paghawak ng baril. Pinag-aaralan din ngayon ng ahensya kung pwede natin silang pahawakin kapag nagpapatrol o may huhulihin para maipagtanggol nila ang sarili, kung kailangan,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu also disclosed that the DENR will provide a college scholarship to Arzaga’s daughter, Jesel Mae, 16, who is now in tenth grade.

Under the instruction of Secretary Cimatu, DENR Mimaropa Regional Director Natividad Bernardino and provincial environment officials met with Major General Galileo Gerard Kintanar of the AFP Western Command (WESCOM) and Palawan Police chief Senior Supt. Gabriel Lopez to discuss cooperation in addressing the issue of illegal logging.

"WESCOM will help the DENR conduct regular aerial patrol and strengthen joint operations against timber poachers, illegal loggers and kaingeros," Bernardino said.

"Apart from this, the WESCOM will train our forest rangers and foresters on basic security measures, including the use of firearms for self-defense," she added.

Meanwhile, Palawan provincial environment and natural resources officer Felizardo Cayatoc deplored the attacks against forest workers, noting that illegal loggers have become more aggressive now.

“Dati itak lang ang dala nila, ngayon marami sa kanila ay may baril na de-sabog o kaya ay paltik. We cannot allow our foresters and forest rangers to be sitting ducks amidst the brazen attacks of those who destroy our environment," Cayatoc said.

He added: "It would be impossible to accomplish our task of protecting the environment if our protectors are being killed; we need to equip them." ### 


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