Clean Air Act review to tighten standards, tackle rural pollution

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THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it is conducting its periodic review of the Clean Air Act of 1999 with an eye towards stricter standards and enlisting local governemnts to crack down on rural pollution arising from the burning of fields.

Section 19 the Clean Air Act authorizes the DENR to review emissions standards every two years, especially for stationary sources of air pollution such as fuel-burning equipment and industrial plants.

With around 70% of the air pollution especially in urban areas generated by vehicles, the government’s main concern in rural areas is controlling biomass burning, which includes the slash-and-burn method known as “kaingin” as well as the post-harvest burning of fields to clear them for the next planting.

Environmental Quality Division Engineer III Jundy Del Socorro said the review hopes to make emissions standards stricter, with a Chinese crackdown set as the model. Mr. Del Socorro also said that the DENR is closely coordinating with local government units (LGUs).

“We need the LGUs [to regulate things like] open burning or kaingin,” he added.

“Although that’s not much of a big contributor to pollution, the transboundary pollutants, which are haze, are very tiny, small aerosols. They’re very light and can [stay in] the atmosphere for very long time.”

Tsinghua University Dean of the School of Environment and Chinese Academy of Engineering member He Kebin said that China was able to reduce its air pollution levels in the last five years due to stricter policies.

In a seminar at the Asian Development Bank on Friday, Mr. He said that this included the national government applying “pressure” to lower levels of government.

“We started measuring pollution monthly, and made a ranking system so that they would be pressured to arrive at their own solutions,” he added.

Mr. He, who is also a trustee of the non-government organization Clean Air Asia, noted that even though agricultural is a small source of pollution, biomass burning continues to affect China’s efforts to curb air pollution.

“Biomass burning is not largest emittor but when it reaches summer or harvest period, it becomes the source of peak emissions for the season,” he added. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato