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Air quality monitors no longer working before Aquino term


The air quality monitoring devices around Metro Manila in the 1970s were a project of the National Pollution Control Commission (NPCC) and had stopped operating in 1985 when Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was still president because of lack of spare parts and high maintenance costs.


Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo said, however, in a Nov. 17 post on his Facebook page that the project was then first lady Imelda Marcos' that the administration of Corazon Aquino discontinued.


Remembering air monitoring devices installed at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila and on EDSA that recorded the air pollution index in these places, Tulfo, a former journalist, said:

Isa sa mga proyekto yun (air monitoring device) ni Madam First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos noong 1970s na tinanggal ng sumunod na administrasyon (That air monitoring device is one of the projects of Madam First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos in the 1970s that was removed by the next administration).

An image of the air quality monitoring device at Plaza Miranda taken in 1978 shows a signage underneath it that reads, “A Project of the NATIONAL POLLUTION CONTROL COMMISSION.”


Air quality monitoring device at Plaza Miranda, Quiapo in 1978. Source:  ASEAN Heritage & History
Air quality monitoring device at Plaza Miranda, Quiapo in 1978. Source: ASEAN Heritage & History

The devices measure the air pollution index through the level of suspended particulates in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) of air and the level of carbon monoxide in parts per million (ppm) of air. They also indicate if the overall air pollution index is good, fair, poor, or dangerous.


The National Water and Air Pollution Control Commission (NWAPCC), which was created through Republic Act No. 3931 in 1964 before Marcos was elected president, started conducting pollution monitoring activities in Metro Manila in 1971.


Six stations were established to “monitor oxidant (ozone), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, suspended particulates, and lead,” according to a study, Vehicular Air Pollution Abatement Strategies for Metro Manila.


On Aug. 18, 1976, Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 984 that amended R.A. No. 3931 and created the NPCC.


The Philippine Environment Code, or Presidential Decree No. 1152, mandated the NPCC to establish an air quality monitoring network. In 1977, the air quality monitoring device at Plaza Miranda was installed, two years after the NWAPCC installed a similar device in Ermita, Manila.


The study said the lack of spare parts and high maintenance costs forced the NPCC to stop operating some of these devices in the early eighties.


By 1983, the remaining functioning equipment “began to break down leading to the shutdown of all monitoring operations before the end of 1985,” it said.


This means that the air quality monitoring devices were no longer working before Marcos was deposed in 1986, contrary to Tulfo’s claim that the succeeding administration stopped operating them.


Tulfo’s Facebook post has received more than 1,300 reactions, 175 comments, and 38 shares as of writing. (ANPC)

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