Is Metro Manila air improving?

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A recent study by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) shows that air quality of Metro Manila has slightly improved.

The figure has gone from 166 micrograms in 2010 down to 120 micrograms per cubic meter in 2015 — just 30 micrograms above the standard safe level.

Government agencies said that the Clean Air Act of 1999 has been the guiding line in achieving the positive result.

The DENR, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and local government units have been apprehending and fining air polluters — whether these are industries, small businesses and most especially motorists driving smoke-belching vehicles.

Metro Manila counts almost 8 million vehicles and growing, contributing to a staggering 80% of the total cause of air pollution.

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The Air Quality Management Bureau said it is working with the LTO in tracking and taking smoke belchers off the streets.

Fines range from P2,000 to P5,000 for the first two offenses. At the third offense, the bill is P6,000 plus one year license suspension. For buses, it can mean one year cancellation of the franchise permit.

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LTO Law Enforcement Division Chief Roque Verzosa said their efforts have been helpful in curbing pollution.

"As of 2001 ang hinuli namin to the present is about 65,000 or more," said Verzoza. "Maganda naman yung nangyari dahil all the local government units created an ordinance for their own anti smoke belching units sa kanilang mga cities."

Meanwhile Undersecretary Jonas Leones, director of the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau, said a law implementing a retirement age for old cars is long overdue.

"Minsan maisip nila anti-poor e, they cannot afford to buy new ones for the price," said Leones.

"If the government can provide a very good transport system and implement volume reduction program then ma e-ease yung traffic natin."

But despite government's data, the grey cap of smoke covering the city doesn't seem to be lifting.

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Scenes like people covering their mouths and noses to try and keep the toxic fumes out of their system are common.

These particles can be small enough to reach our lungs and even our blood stream and cause lung diseases such as Bronchitis, bronchial asthma and emphysema, as well as high blood pressure and common heart diseases.

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While the government said it is making headway in the campaign for cleaner air, each citizen has to do his or her own share.

The DENR said people can practice simple steps to help curb pollution:

"Sa vehicles siguro maybe they can exercise carpooling para ma-minimize yung traffic and smoke belching. Second siguro they can use bicycles, may bicycle lanes naman tayo ngayon, and siguro ensure that their vehicles are in good condition," said Leones.

With the volume of cars being the main source of pollution and the government taking its time in improving mass transportation systems, the only short term solution appears to be in the hands of the people.