Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has assured the public that the Department of Environment Natural Resources (DENR) will continue to strive for continuing improvement in air quality amid renewed concerns about the impacts of coal-fired power plants on the environment and public health.


The environment chief made the assurance after environmental advocates led by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) petitioned the Supreme Court to compel the DENR and the Department of Energy to strictly regulate the operations of coal-fired power plants in the country.


Cimatu, who was appointed environment secretary in May, said that part of the DENR's mandate is to make sure that environmental laws, including Republic Act No. 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, are fully implemented.


"Intensive enforcement will continue to be a tool used by the DENR to carry out its mandate from the people to improve the quality of air we breathe," Cimatu said.


Cimatu said the DENR welcomes the petition filed by the PMCJ and its affiliates.


Without touching on the merits of the case, Cimatu said the DENR -- through its Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) -- regularly reviews its policies designed to reduce air pollution and protect human health and the environment.


He noted that just last year, a new National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Value (NAAQGV) for particulate matter (PM) 2.5 or particle pollution less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter took effect.


"Pursuant to DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2013-13, the NAAQGV for PM2.5 is set at 50 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/Ncm) for an average of 24 hours or short term, and 25 μg/Ncm for an average of one year or long term, starting from January 2016," Cimatu said.


PM2.5 is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health problems.


Cimatu said the establishment of NAAQGV is one of the safeguards put in place pursuant to the country's clean air law in to protect the public against air pollution, including those coming from coal-fired power plants.


“Coal-fired power plants are allowed, but we need to tell them the limit of their emissions. If they emit more than what we prescribe them, then we will close their operations. But if they do pass, they shall be allowed to operate because that is within the law,” Cimatu pointed out.


Another safeguard, Cimatu said, is the installation of continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS), as prescribed under different administrative orders issued in 2007.


At present, Cimatu said all 17 operating coal-fired power plants have their respective CEMS.


"One of the conditions under the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for power plants is to install CEMS. DAO 2017-14 requires the operation proponents to transmit data and images from its CEMS or CCTV to EMB online information database system to ensure the disclosure of the emission results,” Cimatu said.


He added: “Large power plants are required to install continuous ambient air monitoring within their vicinity. The EMB has also completed several installations of automatic continuous ambient air monitoring sites at different categories in general ambient and roadside ambient monitoring." ###




“I will strengthen the CENROs,” says Secretary Roy A. Cimatu in his message during his recent visit in Bicol. Secretary Cimatu vowed to strengthen the Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENROs) being the frontline unit which delivers the services of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the people.

According to Secretary Cimatu, he will empower the Forest Protection Officers to ensure their welfare and security. “Hindi tama na binabantayan ninyo ang mga puno, pero hindi ninyo mabantayan at maipagtanggol ang inyong mga sarili. We will train you. Pag-aaralin natin yan,” he said.

Citing his major thrusts for the environment, Secretary Cimatu emphasized clean air, clean water and solid waste management. He vowed to protect the environment by strictly and fully enforcing the laws. “We will do something for the environment, and I need all of you,” he stressed. He is optimistic that with the help of all DENR employees all environmental laws will be implemented to the fullest.

Meanwhile, Secretary Cimatu expressed his awe to Bicol Region being home to the world’s most perfect cone volcano and the world’s smallest commercial edible extant fish. He said that both Mayon Volcano and the Sinarapan or locally known as “Tabios” should be protected including all our natural resources. His orders for their protection were made explicitly to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officers and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers where these two (2) wonders are found.

The Environment chief likewise warned employees about zero tolerance on corruption. “Do your work with honesty and integrity. Corrupt officials and employees will be punished. You don’t have a second chance with me,” the environment chief said. 


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