The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) stepped up its efforts to monitor water and air quality in various parts of the country in 2019.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that aside from Manila Bay and Boracay, the agency made sure that all other water bodies are protected pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

“If we can rehabilitate Boracay and Manila Bay, we can give the same protection to all water bodies in the country by strictly adhering to our annual target and even going beyond it,” Cimatu said.

As of October this year, Cimatu said the DENR was able to monitor 45 priority water bodies and 39 priority recreational water bodies, both representing 100 percent of the annual targets.

One of the important provisions of RA 9275 is the designation of Water Quality Management Areas (WQMAs) using appropriate physiographic units such as watersheds and river basins to effectively enforce the law and improve the quality of water bodies.

This year, the DENR was able to formulate, update and monitor 36 action plans related to the operation of WQMAs.

“We hope that through these action plans, we will be able to come up with new WQMAs in the future for the greater protection and regulation on the development of river systems nationwide,” Cimatu said.

In line with the implementation of RA 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, Cimatu said that a total of 101 air quality monitoring stations (AQMS) are already operational across the country.

These stations measure pollutants such as total suspended particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.

Cimatu said the DENR also monitored the emissions of 14,538 firms out of the annual target of 15,989. The agency also achieved its 2019 target of updating and implementing 22 Airshed Action Plans nationwide, he added.

Meanwhile, Cimatu said the DENR is working to make air quality monitoring more comprehensive by adding Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 or finer particles that are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter.

PM 2.5 pose the greatest health risks as these fine particles could get deep into the lungs and some may even get into the bloodstream. Exposure to these particles can affect a person’s lungs and heart.

“An administrative order is underway to make air quality monitoring more inclusive. This will guarantee that the public is informed and protected from the effects of air pollution by developing the breakpoints of air quality index for PM 2.5,” Cimatu said. ###