CEPMO submits initial recommendations on post-quarantine environmental programs

May 5, 2020 – Noting the positive impact of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) on the city’s environs, City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) Asst. Dept. Head Rhenan Diwas submitted to Mayor Benjamin Magalong initial recommendations on the environmental programs that may be adopted after the quarantine period.

The recommendations were contained in the Roadside Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Report the office submitted based on real-time monitoring data culled from the air sampler equipment installed in an area near the Baguio City Hall from March 2-31 and from April 1-15.

“Normally, during summer season  (beginning November to May), readings of dustsentry are at higher ‘good’ to ‘fair’ due to increased mobile sources (motor vehicles) from tourists/locals and dust particles formed during warm weather but suspended in the air for longer time due to the City’s higher altitude. However, since the ECQ was implemented on March 16, 2020, readings were consistently low with 8 (µg/mᶟ) recorded as the lowest and there has been no notable spike recorded within the city hall grounds (such as the one recorded on March 8, 2020 at 53 (µg/mᶟ) before the ECQ was implemented),” the report read.

“The consistently low readings of air pollutants can be attributed to reduced motor vehicles entering the City Hall grounds as well as limited activities being conducted at the City Hall Park. While the City does not have yet its own carbon emission and GHG inventory, studies conducted by the National Government would show that majority of air pollutants come from the transport sector (mobile sources).”

Diwas said that “based on forecasts from foreign sources, the environmental impact of the ECQ, while it has resulted to good air quality in major cities around the globe, is seen as fleeting because economic and transport activities will most likely surge after the pandemic.”

He said it is imperative for the state (or the concerned LGUs) to adopt as its “new normal” sustainable environmental programs or policies, such as but not limited to:

*Policy 1: In the implementation of gradual operation of the City’s transport system, only PUJs that are roadworthy or have undergone voluntary emission testing should be allowed to travel within the City. The Road Side Inspection Team, in coordination with the City Engineering Office-Traffic and Transport Management Office and the respective transport associations, will conduct emission testing to PUJs at their respective barangays until all PUJs are tested; 

*Policy 2: Road Side Inspection and Monitoring Team (RTMT) should be intensified at high risk areas to monitor smoke belching vehicles. Since transport operators and drivers were greatly affected by the ECQ, the Smoke Belching Fees will be temporarily suspended but the erring PUJ operator/driver will be directed to do the proper maintenance/repair/cleaning of the PUJ before it resumes operation;

*Policy 3: The City of Baguio should eventually adopt low carbon urban transport system (i.e. project of Dept. of Transportation in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP);

*Policy 4: The City should implement urban forests initiatives as a way to mitigate air pollution. The CEPMO is currently refining the Urban Greening Action Plan of Baguio City entitled: “Re-Greening Action Plan: A decade of Urban Forest Initiatives” for submission to the Local Chief Executive and eventual presentation to the City Council;

*Policy 5:  Establish walkable connections throughout the City to encourage people to walk and provide positive places for community pride. The inclusion of urban greening elements in sidewalks is one way to further the goal of walkable connections and the Urban Greening Action Plan, with the benefits of good air quality distributed equitably among the Baguio populace. – Aileen P. Refuerzo