BLISTT air quality still good to fair


BAGUIO CITY– The Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-CAR) disclosed the ambient air quality in the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) area was good to fair during the first quarter of this year based on the 24-hour exposure ambient air quality sampling and monitoring done at established sampling stations in the said areas.

In a report submitted by Mark Anthony P. Solano, Technical Aide, and duly noted by Wilhelmina O. Lagonilla, chief, ambient monitoring and technical services section of the EMB-CAR, there were 10 PM monitoring stations that used manual method for sampling at established stations within the BLISTT airshed and except for the Plaza Garden Station located at the central business district of Baguio city, most results obtained from the designated sampling stations did not exceed the national ambient air quality guideline value  at 150 micrograms per cubic meter for particulate matter.

In general, the EMB-CAR disclosed results from seven sampling stations were within the good air quality index range which is from 0-54 micrograms per cubic meter.

On the other hand, results from two sampling stations, particularly both within La Trinidad, Benguet, in front of the municipal hall along KM. 5 and below the Provincial Capitol along Km. 6, were within the fair air quality index range which is from 55-154 micrograms per cubic meter.

At the same time, results from the Plaza Garden Station ranged within fair and unhealthy for sensitive groups because the same is the convergence area of most motor vehicles in the city.

According to the report, weather conditions during the sampling activities were generally fair and mostly cloudy with rains throughout the day.

The EMB-CAR noted two sampling stations showed decrease of particulate matter levels as compared with results obtained from the fourth quarter last year while six sampling stations showed increase in particulate matter levels as compared with obtained results during the similar fourth quarter period last year.

Though at 175 percent increase was noted for sample result obtained at Tuba, Benguet, the EMB-CAR stated that still the same is below the national standard PM-10 levels obtained at the station located at the Provincial Capitol along Km. 6, La Trinidad, Benguet which remains at fair levels whereby 27 percent increase was noted as compared from results of the fourth quarter last year.

During the sampling, the report cited that construction activities were going on adjacent to the Provincial Capitol station.

Moreover, the EMB-CAR revealed there were 85 validated PM 24-hour averages for the first quarter of this year and generally, the PM levels are within the national standards at 150 micrograms per cubic meter.

Results showed an increase of PM on the air during the highlights of the Panagbenga flower festival which relates to increased vehicle utilization, especially by arriving tourists. Closure of major roads like Session Road during the Session Road in Bloom event even in Lake Drive for the Baguio Blooms event, traffic congestions were observed.

The report cited other than the Panagbenga events, increased incidents of forest fires from nearby municipalities of Tuba and Bokod, Benguet contributed to levels of PM and sudden decrease of PM levels followed by series of heavy rains reveals that particulates produced from forest and grass fires even from long distance areas add up to suspended PM in the air within the coverage area of the Burnham Park station.

It stated there were 85 validated PM 24-hour averages that are within the national standards at 75 micrograms. Occurrence of extraordinary activities such as the Panagbenga festival and forest fires contributed to the sharp increase in PM levels. It was noted that there were two PM concentrations that are only about 9 percent below from the guideline value where its concentration value occurred on said extraordinary periods.

The EMB-CAR recommended concerned government agencies and the local governments must implement effective control measures to suppress the suspension of particulates, especially for construction activities and for the reduction of the occurrence of forest fires.

It was also suggested that there should be continuous use of the PM sample in established sampling stations with the BLISTT airshed in order to guarantee the air quality monitoring program of the agency. And that the results being provided to the local governments should be used to craft their respective environmental programs and policies for the improvement of air quality on identified areas.

The established sampling stations were at the Acop, Tublay municipal hall grounds, Sablan municipal hall grounds, EMB-CAR Compound, Gibraltar, Baguio City; La Trinidad municipal park, Km. 5; Provincial Capitol in Km. 6, La Trinidad; Mile Hi Center inside Camp John Hay; Itogon municipal hall grounds; Baguio Ayala Techno Hub in Camp John Hay; Tuba municipal hall grounds; and Plaza Garden, Baguio City.

By Dexter A. See