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DENR to use social media vs smoke belchers

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it would soon harness the power of social media and digital mobile gadgets to shame and catch smoke belchers. Juan Miguel Cuna, chief of the Environmental Management Bureau, said the DENR and green group Bantay Kalikasan plan to revive the Sagip Hangin campaign, which was first implemented in 2004. Cuna said the project would ask commuters and passengers to submit photographs and text the details and plate numbers of vehicles that have inefficient emission systems and which pollute the city’s air. 80% of air pollution is from traffic Traffic, he noted, “is the biggest source of pollution" in Metro Manila, contributing about 80%. The rest of the pollution comes from industrial sources. Cuna explained that this was the right time to engage the public in the clean air campaign due to the popularity of sophisticated cellphones and digital cameras. “At the time it was first implemented, camera phones and cellphones were not yet popular," Cuna said. He noted that concerned citizens could send the details and photographs to numbers provided by Globe and Smart telecoms. Globe Telecommunications, for instance, has donated computers to EMB’s monitoring system. Ironing out the kinks with LTO Asked when the project will start, Cuna declined to give a specific date. He said they were still ironing out the kinks in the database of the Land Transportation Office (LTO). Under the plan, owners of smoke-belching vehicles will be sanctioned by the LTO. They would also be required to repair their exhaust systems and test them. Before they could take out their vehicles, they should also send proof, via pictures, to the EMB showing that their mufflers are clean. The DENR is intensifying its anti-smoke belching campaign to make Metro Manila more livable. The city’s air, according to the department, is heavily polluted. Manila's air pollution improving From January – June 2010, the total suspended particles (TSP) in Metro Manila was just over 160 micrograms (ug)/normal cubic meters (Ncm), the DENR said. From July – December 2010, it was at 133.5 ug/ncm, Cuna said. Although the reduction of solid particulates, which consist of carbon monoxide and sulfur molecules that have mixed with dust, in the air was good news, Cuna said Metro Manila’s air was still dirty. The normal standard is 90 micrograms (ug)/normal cubic meters (Ncm). The reduction of the pollutants in Metro Manila’s air was due to the intensified campaign against smoke belchers, through roadside apprehensions and stricter guidelines on emissions, Cuna said. The rains in the second half of the year also helped spread out the solid and liquid particles in the air, the DENR official said. Air pollution costs P7.6B per year Citing a 2007 World Bank report, the DENR said air pollution was a major cause of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as asthma, lung ailments, cancer, and stroke in the Philippines —costing the country P7.6 billion per year in terms of medical bills, lost work hours, and other economic losses. Last year, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje vowed to cut down air pollution in the metropolis by 30 percent by the end of 2011. Cuna said the DENR is likely to reach this goal. “We’re hopeful to meet this. It is until the end of this year," he said. — TJD, GMA News