Next to lessening smoke emissions from motor vehicles, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now proposing a “no exposed soil” policy in Metro Manila’s streets as a way to reduce the level of air pollution in the metropolis.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje bared this proposal in a letter to Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino in an effort to lessen dusts coming from streets and open and bare lands that pollute the air.

Paje said that a “no exposed soil” policy, similar to those implemented in other countries, would involve cleaning up the roads through regular sweeping. It would also require additional environmental management practices particularly at construction sites like prohibiting the use of bagged cement and on-site mixing of concrete and mortar, and the use of enclosures and covers to minimize dust particles from flying.

Greening or planting campaigns, including the paving of roads and other access points, would also reduce bare land where exposed soil can also be found, the secretary added. “Kapag walang nakatanim na kahit damo man lang, nililipad sa hangin ang alikabok at nakakadagdag ito sa suspended particulates na nalalanghap natin,” he explained. Suspended particulates refer to dust particles in the air, and is the basis for determining the level of air pollution.

The environment chief said that a “no exposed soil” policy would greatly reduce air pollution and take air quality improvements to the next level. “The sooner we act, the sooner we can enjoy the benefits of clear air not only for our health but for the environment in general,” he said.

Clean air has been a priority agenda of the government from the start of the Aquino administration, and the DENR has aimed to reduce the level of air pollution in Metro Manila by 30% this year, compared to 2009 levels. It has since then partnered vigorously with the private sector and other government agencies to implement various air pollution control programs, such as the Ligtas-Hangin campaign to rid EDSA of smoke belchers. The agency has also set stricter emission limits for all vehicles, and called for a tighter watch on erring private emission testing centers.

Such efforts have contributed to a substantial decrease in levels of total suspended particulates (TSP) since December in 2010 until it spiked in March of this year, then declined again in April. Paje attributed the spike “not to smog, but due to the dryness of the summer season which aggravates the level of dust in the air.”

Data from the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, which monitors the country’s air quality, showed that from 133 micrograms per normal cubic meter (µg/ncM) in December 2010, the TSP levels decreased to 131µg/ncM in January 2011, It further went down to 120µg/ncM in February, before increasing by 22% to 140µg/ncM in March. However, the level once more dipped by 17% to 121µg/ncM in April.

The World Bank estimates an annual productivity loss worth P7.6 billion due to the respiratory and cardiovascular diseased caused by the exposure of about 18 million Filipinos to air pollution.

 

 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje rallied last week his field officials to ensure the success of the National Greening Program, saying the program has full support of the President.

“There is no reason to fail considering that President Aquino has amply given all the support this program (NGP) needs to succeed,” Paje told the regional executive directors (REDs), regional technical directors, and the provincial and community environment and natural resources officers (PENROs, CENROs) attending the 2-day National Convention of Field Officers held May 31-June 1, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City.

Paje also challenged the field officials “to give their best shot” as their performance in implementing the NGP will be “highly taken into consideration’ in the evaluation of officials for promotions.

“Those who will be performing will be rewarded. Wala pong biro yan,” Paje said, stressing that the field officers will be evaluated fairly based on a purely-merit system “without regard for personal ties or past associations” he has made through over 20 years at the DENR where he started his career as a casual forester.

Paje said the NGP-driven performance-based incentive scheme will first zero in on the PENRO and CENRO positions, with an instruction to DENR Assistant Secretary for Management and Finance Corazon Davis to reserve the vacant PENRO and CENRO posts as rewards for NGP’s top performers especially those that are on an acting capacity.

“If you are a CENRO, you will automatically become a PENRO. Those who are not yet full-pledged CENRO (with temporary appointment), we will make you full-pledged CENROs. Performance lamang, wala nang iba,” Paje stressed.

Of the 168 CENRO plantilla positions, 47 have yet to be filled; while 25 remain vacant in the 73 PENRO plantilla posts.

The incentive scheme forms part of Paje’s overall program to strengthen DENR’s performance-based promotion system to beef up the national leadership’s efforts in professionalizing the Philippine bureaucracy.

But Paje was quick to clarify that the quality of their performance will be determined by the survival of the seedling declared in their performance and not merely on the number of seedling planted.

“Remember, the NGP is a national priority program of President Aquino, and this is not for show but for grow. Gone are the days when tree planting activities were just to set world records or just for photo opportunities,” Paje noted.

At the same time, Paje asked “doubting Thomases” to be forthcoming this early with their hesitation to go all out to meet their targets to allow for management to act appropriately in their particular case.

“We will make sure that everybody performs. Kung sino sa inyo ang tingin ay hindi kayang ipatupad ang programang ito, sabihin na ninyo ngayon,” Paje said.

The performance-based incentive will be based on the field officials’ scorecard in the yearly targets given them and will be validated with the use of state-of-the art technology such as satellite mapping and internet-based technology through NGP’s website at the www.ngp.denr.gov.ph