The regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (EMB-DENR) is yet to confirm if the haze from forest fires in Indonesia has reached Palawan, but it said residents who are already experiencing breathing issues should take precautionary measures by wearing masks and staying indoors.

“We want to inform the public that you take necessary precaution na at kung hindi naman importante ang gagawin ay huwag na muna lumabas regardless if whether the emission or exceedance is coming from the haze or other sources. ‘Yan naman ang general advise namin,” EMB MIMAROPA regional director Atty. Michael Drake Matias said Friday morning.

As far as their air quality index (AQI) readings are concerned, Matias said the EMB in the region is still confirming if the “spike” is due to the haze from Indonesia.

(Photo courtesy of EMB-DENR)

On Monday, the PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) readings of Palawan shown in the World Air Quality Index (WAQI) project at have been fluctuating from 176 to 189. The last reading recorded was 177 by the standards of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

“In so far as determining as to whether ‘yong reading manggagaling sa haze ay hindi siya maaano ng basta may spike sa beyond PM2.5 or even PM10, we cannot directly attribute it to the haze,” Matias said.

Based on available information, PM10 is explained as particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter, while PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. The latter is generally described as fine particles.

If inhaled, both pollutants are harmful to human health, but PM2.5 supposedly causes more damage as it easily gets to the lungs through the nose and mouth.

READ RELATED STORY: Dangerous air pollution levels up over Palawan

Matias said they will be doing an air pollution “source apportionment” study to know if the readings at their AQI station at Palawan State University (PSU) is from the Indonesian forest fires.

“Parang gagawin natin — because I think ‘yong mga filters darating na this week — ‘yon ang gagamitin nila,” he said.

He said it is a technique to understand the different sources of air pollution particles and identifies what they are made up of.

Since last week, netizens in the city and the province have been informing Palawan News of their observation of the unusually somber skies as if it is going to rain.

Matias, who was in Puerto Princesa City on September 19, said he also observed this.

“Regardless of the source, as long as there is exceedance doon sa ating parameter either PM2.5 or PM10, kailangan we have to take the necessary precaution. We’re communicating na with the OCD (Office of the Civil Defense) and the local government regarding our reading dyan sa Palawan area. Andyan nga ako, napansin ko nga pagbaba ko sa plane,” he said.

He said they will only attribute the haze to the forest fires in Indonesia if they already have the evidence.

He said their last reading was 50 on PM10 on September 10 which is based on the implementing rules and regulation of the Clean Air Act, but since there are PM2.5 readings that are recent, they are eyeing the recommendation of a “policy” to be crafted by their central office.

Matias said that exceedances recorded for the 50 standards, particularly under PM2.5, was 51 on September 10, 67 on September 15, 71 on September 16, 92 on September 17, and 73 on September 18.

“Comparing these to the standard of 50, medyo may ano na nga… so I would advise the public nga to take the necessary precaution, especially ‘yong mga sensitive, iwasan na muna nilang lumabas,” he said.

In Puerto Princesa, city health chief Dr. Ricardo Panganiban said those who have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and cardiac problems should wear masks because the haze can aggravate their respiratory issues.

He said they belong to the “sensitive group” that could experience breathing problems while the haze is present.

“Kung merong mask na puwedeng gamitin, puwede silang gumamit noon para hindi sila ma-expose sa haze,” Panganiban said.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.