As we celebrate the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies on 07 September 2023, a collective of dedicated health professionals and climate advocates in the Philippines acknowledges the urgent need to address the pressing issue of air pollution within our nation. Our commitment stems from the devastating toll air pollution takes on the health and well-being of our fellow Filipinos.
Each year, approximately 7 million lives globally are tragically cut short due to the adverse impacts of air pollution. This silent menace adversely affects neurological development in children, leading to premature deaths, as well as a higher prevalence of diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory infections, including pneumonia and allergic diseases such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema and urticaria.
We recognize that particulate matter with diameters ranging 10 micrometers (PM10) and less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), including substances like sulfate and black carbon, penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, compounding the health risks for our population. Within the Philippine context, our concern is exacerbated by disconcerting statistics. A recent study has revealed that our country bears the brunt of this crisis, with air pollution responsible for 66,230 deaths in the country in 2019, of which 64,920 deaths were estimated to be adults and 1,310 children.
The root of this problem is intertwined with our heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy and transportation, perpetuating both outdoor and indoor air pollution. Fossil fuel-led air pollution was responsible for nearly 1 in 5 global deaths in 2018. As health professionals and staunch advocates for both environmental and public health, we bear a profound responsibility to safeguard our communities against the perils posed by air pollution.
Our role is multi-faceted and compelling. We stand poised to lend our expertise to pivotal entities such as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Climate Change Commission (CCC), and other pertinent government bodies and non-government organizations, supporting their initiatives aimed at combating air pollution. With this declaration, we affirm our commitment to the following action points:
Raising Awareness: We pledge to increase awareness among health professionals, policymakers, and stakeholders about the interconnectedness of air pollution and health within the Philippine context.
Conducting Research: Recognizing the importance of empirical evidence, we commit to conducting research on the intricate relationship between air pollution and health outcomes, producing knowledge that guides informed decision-making.
Policy Advocacy: Through active collaboration with the DOH, DENR, CCC, and other relevant government agencies, we aim to contribute to the formulation of robust policies and guidelines addressing the critical nexus of air pollution and health.
In an impassioned plea to our government, we earnestly urge the following steps to be taken:
Update Air Quality Standards: Swiftly adopt the updating of our air quality standards following the limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO), aligning our nation's approach with global best practices.
Enforcement of Policies: Strengthen the enforcement of policies, administrative orders, and ordinances linked to the Clean Air Act, particularly emissions regulations, and the implementation of technologies capable of preventing, mitigating, and treating air pollutants at both environmental and household levels.
Enhanced Air Quality Monitoring: Enhance our existing air quality monitoring systems, fostering transparency and providing accessible real-time information to the public. This data-driven approach empowers informed decision-making and policy refinement.
Comprehensive Health Assessments: Mandate Health Impact Assessments (HIA) and Health Impact Clearance Certificates (HICC) for all development projects, including those endorsed by the national government, to ensure that health considerations are central to every decision.
Just Energy Transition: Recognizing the direct link between energy choices and public health outcome, accelerate the just, equitable, and healthy transition from fossil-fuel-based energy sources to clean, renewable alternatives, safeguarding both the health of our citizens and the environment for generations to come.
On this International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, we join hands in a resolute pledge to combat air pollution and its dire consequences on our nation's health. It is time to elevate our commitment beyond words and catalyze transformative action. Together, we can breathe life into a future where clean air is not a luxury but a fundamental right for all Filipinos.
Signed this 05 day of September 2023, at Lung Center of the Philippines, Quezon City.
We urge our friends from the health and environmental communities to join us in this movement. Show your support to this Statement of Commitment by signing up here.