Air quality in Region 12 declared safe despite haze from Indonesia forest fires

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/22 October) — Air quality in this city and other parts of Region 12 has remained at safe levels despite the presence of haze, believed to have originated from the forest fires in Indonesia, in the area’s atmosphere in the last two weeks.

Maysheen Collong, information officer of the Environmental Management Bureau in Region 12, said Thursday their monitoring showed that the pollutants, especially the particulate matters, in the air in key cities in the region were still below the standard level.

She said data generated on Wednesday by their ambient air monitoring systems installed here and in Koronadal City indicated that the fine particles in the atmosphere with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or particulate matter (PM) 2.5 remains under the standard 75 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m3).

Collong explained that PM2.5 refers to pollutants that are “thinner than hair strands and smaller than sand grains” that could pose adverse effects to human health when breathed.

She said this city posted a PM2.5 result of 50.50 mg/m3 while Koronadal City generated 62.62 mg/m3.

“This means that the air pollutants present in our atmosphere are so far are at tolerable level and should not be a cause for worry or alarm,” she told MindaNews.

Weather observers at the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration station here initially monitored the presence of haze, which is a mixture of dust and smoke, two weeks ago.

Dante Arriola, Pagasa senior weather observer here, said their assessment showed that it could have come from the raging forest fires in parts of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Several days after it appeared, he said the haze thinned out and dissipated but returned last weekend.

At least four flights at the city airport were cancelled last Saturday due to poor runway visibility as a result of the haze.

The City Health Office reported a rise in cases of respiratory-related diseases among local residents since the presence of haze was first monitored.

But citing results of their air quality monitoring, Collong said the rise in respiratory diseases could not be due to the haze.

She said she could not also make any conclusion as of the moment whether the monitored haze really came from the forest fires in Indonesia.

“The prevailing wind patterns in the region are not from Indonesia so it’s still a big question mark. Right now we’re studying all possible situations, including observations that the foggy or hazy atmosphere was actually caused by low cloud formations,” she added. (MindaNews)