The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its partners are set to hold a Metro Manila Clean Air Summit on February 29, 2012 to draw attention to the adverse impact of air pollution on human health and environment.

Around 300 clean air advocates, including representatives from concerned national agencies, local government units, transport sector and civic groups, are expected to assemble for the summit with the theme, “Usok Mo, Buhay Ko,” which will be held at the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) Auditorium in North Avenue, Quezon City.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje described the event as “a multi-sectoral gathering that will seek commitments from the various sectors to address the problem of air pollution and reduce its health impacts through concrete and doable strategies.”

The summit is being organized by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), along with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and the Philippine Medical Association, who on December 9, 2011, signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that seeks to strengthen the anti-smoke belching program in Metro Manila in an effort to maintain a reduced particulates in the National Capital Region.

The Clean Air Summit will be highlighted by an hour-long talk show hosted by TV personality Angelique Lazo, featuring officials from key implementers of Republic Act 8749, also known as the Philippine Clean Air Act. Expected to join the discussion include Paje, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas and officials of the KBP and PMA.

This will be followed by discussions on various approaches in tackling air pollution by concerned agencies and other organizations. Topics to be tackled during the event include health impacts of air pollution, vehicular volume reduction program, fuel quality improvement, and intensified enforcement of anti-smoke belching operations.

The participants are also expected to share on identifying other strategies to achieve cleaner air in the metropolis.

Paje noted the relevance and necessity of holding the summit in light of statistics from the health department showing how illnesses such as acute lower respiratory tract infection, pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis and heart diseases consistently top the list of morbidity and mortality causes in the Philippines.

“Poor air quality affects our health. Reports from the Department of Health suggest that daily exposure to polluted air can be associated with worsening lung problems and increased cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attacks,” Paje said.

He also said that based on a study conducted by the World Bank, it was estimated that around 18 million Filipinos are exposed to air pollution, resulting in an annual national economic loss of P7.6 billion due to human productivity loss. “We need to reverse this trend, or at least put a stop to it not only for the sake of the economy, but more importantly, to improve our quality of life,” he stressed.