Cimatu calls for collective effort to achieve sustainable urbanization in ASEAN

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu on Tuesday called for a collective effort among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to achieve economic and socially equitable growth without further compromising the environment in the face of ASEAN economic integration and climate change.

Speaking at the gathering of research and development (R&D) experts from ASEAN member countries and dialogue partners, Cimatu said the goal of sustainable urbanization in the region can only be achieved if megacities and other urbanizing areas will get their act together.

"ASEAN megacities such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bandar Seri Begawan and Manila and other highly urbanized cities in Vietnam, Lao P.D.R., Myanmar and Cambodia should collectively and proactively work together to make urbanization as environmentally sustainable as possible," Cimatu said at the opening of the R&D Congress on Sustainable Urbanization in the Course of ASEAN Economic Integration being held at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City from June 27 to 30.

He added: "Any of their innovative solutions should come out from partnerships with the government, academe, socio-civic organizations and private groups. And, we all know that this is a big challenge to all ASEAN member countries."

Cimatu said the four-day regional conference, organized by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), serves as an avenue for exchange of information and collaboration in exploring ways for developing mechanisms and safeguards to achieve sustainable urbanization in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

According to Cimatu, the gathering of regional R&D experts was crucial in the realization of AEC since policy and decision-makers rely on the technologies generated through science-based research for their course of action and innovative solutions.

In fact, he said, such science-based research was the basis of the 25 rapidly growing cities in Southeast Asia when they came up with the ASEAN Initiatives for ESCs or Environmentally Sustainable Cities.

ESCs prioritize low-carbon technologies and encourages city dwellers, industrialists and commercial establishments to strive for carbon-neutral economy. They also promote the judicious use of natural resources and utilization of wastes into energy.

As for the Philippines, Cimatu said that the government -- through the DENR -- continues to push for urban biodiversity conservation and green technology in building resilient cities and in achieving inclusive economic growth.

"I want you to know that the Philippines, through the [DENR], espouses such approaches to sustainable urbanization, and I encourage everyone present here today to reconcile all efforts to make such strategies effective and fruitful," Cimatu said.

The DENR chief urged everyone in the ASEAN "to protect the environment while we strive to strengthen the economic capacity of our region."

"Let us be stewards of our natural resources and work on sustainable urbanization," he stressed.

Research shows that urbanization is the major driver of the world's changing climate brought about by global warming, Cimatu pointed out.

He noted that city dwellers worldwide consume 72 percent of energy from fossil fuels and contribute to emission of 80 percent of greenhouse gases (GHG), and that unsustainable practices in urban areas push the Earth beyond its ecological threshold such as change in land use, which leads to land degradation and biodiversity loss.

Cimatu also cited a 2015 study showing that cities and other urbanizing areas in Southeast Asia have urban "consuming class" of approximately 81 million households, which is likely to double in size to 163 million households by 2030.

This, he said, has implication of raising the city-based demand for consumable goods and services and demand for developed land for residential, commercial, institutional and other public use, and this could result in irreversible change in land use.

"The end result is an enormous increase in GHG emissions that further exacerbate climate change and its worldwide impacts," Cimatu explained.

The forum was part of the 50th founding anniversary of the ASEAN, which is chaired by the Philippines this year. It brought together R&D practitioners from different research institutions, academe and private sector groups from ASEAN member countries and dialogue partners from South Korea, Australia and China. ### 

DENR, partners reaffirm commitment to fight air pollution

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources under Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has reaffirmed its strong commitment to improving air quality in the country, particularly in Metro Manila.

The DENR, through its Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the Partnership for Clean Air, made the reaffirmation during the 9th Clean Air Forum attended by representatives from government agencies, civil society, academic institutions and private sector.

The annual event is an initiative of the Partnership for Clean Air, Inc. a multi-sector network that facilitates the active participation of all sectors of society in the planning and implementation of activities promoting better air quality management in the Philippines. This year's theme was “Connecting People to Healthier Air Quality.”

In his message delivered by EMB National Capital Region Director Vizminda Osorio, Cimatu said that sufficient laws and policies on clean air are already in place and what has to be done is to ensure these are implemented properly and effectively.

"We have strengthened and intensified permitting, compliance and monitoring system that involve stringent screening, evaluation and assessment of projects that will impact on air, water, biodiversity and natural resources and the environment as a whole," Cimatu said.

He said there will be no let up in the implementation of the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, and DENR Administrative Order No. 2015-04, which requires all new vehicles to be equipped with Euro 4/IV engines and compliant with the more stringent Euro 4/IV limits/emission standards.

The DENR chief noted that the EMB has come out with stricter guideline values for particulate matter (PM)2.5 or particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter: 50 micrograms per normal cubic meter (ug/Nm3) for short-term and 25 ug/Nm3 for long-term.

PM, also known as particle pollution, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health problems.

According to Cimatu, there are now a total of 52 air quality monitoring systems across the country, which are capable of measuring pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, xylene, PM10 and PM2.5.

Cimatu said much has been achieved to combat air pollution but more needs to be done, especially in terms of implementing laws and regulations on clear air.

"While there are lots of efforts already to curb air pollution, still these are not enough and we can't be complacent to realize our goal for cleaner air," he stressed.

Meanwhile, EMB Air Quality Management Chief Engineer Jean Rosete said the country's pollution control measures pursuant to the Clean Air Act, including the improvement in fuel quality from Euro 1 to Euro 4 and the use of mass transport system, are helping improve air quality in Metro Manila.

Based on data gathered from air quality monitoring stations in Metro Manila in the last 12 years, Rosete noted a downward trend in total suspended particulates or TSP from 2004 to 2016.

According to the EMB official, the shift from Euro 1 to Euro 4 which lowered parts per million of sulfur from 500 to 50, is a significant contributor to cleaner air despite continued rise in the number of motor vehicles.

Had there not been a steady increase in vehicles, Rosete said the improvement would have been better.

Motor vehicles account for 88 percent of the total air pollution load in Metro Manila.

The Clean Air Forum is an annual activity that aims to evaluate the implementation of the country's clean air law. ### 

  

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