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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is urging the public to continue supporting government efforts to reduce air pollution as it launched a new public information campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care and use of clean fuel.

At the 7th Annual Clean Air Forum held on Tuesday at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Quezon City, DENR Undersecretary and concurrent Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director Jonas Leones announced the launching of Perwisyong Usok! Pigilancampaign, with the tagline, Konting Abala, Laking Ginhawa.

“Konting Abala refers to simple acts like proper vehicle maintenance and the use of clean fuel, while Laking Ginhawa refers to benefits like less harmful smoke being emitted by vehicles, which in turn, cause less health and financial burdens. We believe that summing up doing even little acts, goes a long way,” Leones said.

Leones said the campaign will escalate in the coming months with more newspaper advertisements, billboards and even celebrity endorsement.

“We seek the support of our various government organizations, civil society, private sector, academe and media, to own this campaign, implement it in our respective spheres, expand dissemination of the same, use the campaign symbols, to enjoin more sectors’ awareness about it,” he said.

He added: “We want to strengthen appreciation of our people of the need to achieve clean air, so commitment becomes strong, and enforcement becomes effective.”

A joint undertaking by the DENR and the Partnership for Clean Air Inc., the Clean Air Forum was established to review on a yearly basis the progress of Republic Act No. 8749, or the Philippine Clean Air Act. This year’s theme is “Towards Identifying the Economic Benefits of Clean Air: A Call to Action.”

Leones said the DENR has been zeroing in on motor vehicles, which contribute about 70 to 80 percent of air pollution in Metro Manila.

“The number of vehicles plying the streets of Metro Manila has truly increased, especially in this day and age where purchasing vehicles has been made easier and more affordable. But along with the convenience that it brings, we sometimes overlook the major inconvenience, which is air pollution,” Leones said.

According to the DENR official, it is imperative to know not only the health benefits but also the economic benefits of having clean air.

“Using cleaner fuel, for example, not only cleans the air. It is also very economic since it prolongs the life of your engine, reducing maintenance costs. Breathing cleaner air also reduces the risk of diseases like lung cancer,” Leones said.

“Some of us may think of these as short-term benefits, but in the long run, having cleaner air, is not just good for our health, but also for our pockets. The time and effort we invest in cleaning the air are definitely worth it.”

He said that strong public support is crucial in ensuring the success of anti-air pollution programs being implemented by various government agencies, with help from civil society organizations, the private sector, the academe, student leaders and other sectors.

Leones also shared the following initiatives undertaken by the DENR and its partners in combating air pollution:

· Installation of non-stop automated air quality monitoring stations in each of the 17 local government units in Metro Manila. Real time results are available online at the EMB’s website.

· Cancellation of the licenses of 28 erring private emission testing centers and suspension of 49 others. Show cause orders had also been issued against 165 emission testing centers.

· Expansion of roadside anti-smoke belching operations in major thoroughfares in Metro Manila, especially at night where air pollution rates are high.

· Strict monitoring of ongoing major construction projects for total suspended particulates or pollutants that have adverse effects like respiratory diseases, when inhaled.

· Issuance of a DENR administrative order that requires oil companies to ensure the availability of Euro 4 fuels by July 1, 2015, and compliance with Euro 4 emission standards by all new vehicles by 2016. Euro 4 fuels contain less sulfur content and emit less harmful substances in the air. #

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