With a vision of cleaner air and a healthier, more livable urban environment, the City of Manila has embarked on the landmark Asia Blue Skies Program that is bringing science-based air quality solutions to the Philippine capital, which has dubbed as “Hinga Maynila” (Breathe Manila) by the local government unit of Manila.
Under the stewardship of Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso, and in alignment with the city’s Bagong Maynila (New Manila) initiative, the 449-year-old city is partnering with international non-governmental organization Clean Air Asia and science company 3M.
The five-year program kicked off in November 2019 to improve air quality in the second most-populous city in Metropolitan Manila, and that in turn will advance the Clean Air Initiative announced by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in July 2019.
Over the next five years, 3M will assist Clean Air Asia in its efforts to assess baseline air quality conditions, design capacity-building programs for air quality management, implement awareness and education campaigns, develop Clean Air Action Plans with selected city and district governments, and measure the resulting impact on air pollution levels.
According to a 2018 Clean Air Asia analysis on ambient air quality in Asia, 98% of Asian cities are still at risk of the health impacts of exposure to PM2.5—particles that are 20 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
Because of their size, they can pass directly into the bloodstream and lungs, and have been linked with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, asthma, cancers, and other serious health conditions.
in the air predominantly emanates from combustion processes from industries, powerplants, vehicles, and other burning activities.
The same report also found that the inadequate response of cities to this health threat was attributable to weak institutional capacity, gaps in policies, a lack of awareness of the health and environmental impacts, a lack of information about technology solutions, and the absence of financial support for clean air measures.
In response to this, Manila, home to nearly 1.8 million residents, has committed to achieving safer air quality and to meeting the World Health Organization’s air quality targets by 2030.
“As one of the densest cities in the region, the City of Manila recognizes the need to improve air quality, and we are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of our people by eliminating the imminent risks that air pollution poses,” Mayor Domagoso said.
“By doing so, we are not only preserving the rich culture and strong heritage of the city, but also ensuring that it will thrive for the generations to come.”
“With the data and expertise provided by Clean Air Asia and the genuine commitment of 3M to sustainability, I’m convinced that in five years’ time, residents will be able to enjoy safer and cleaner air, and I’m hopeful that other cities will follow suit.”
To assist the City in achieving those goals, Clean Air Asia and 3M will spend the next five years assessing baseline air quality conditions.
They will design capacity building programs for air quality management, undertake awareness-raising and education campaigns, develop a Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), and measure the resulting impact on air pollution levels.
The first year involves the development of the CAAP, the second and third years are focused on implementation of the CAAP, and the fourth and fifth years on scaling up the air quality solutions to other cities.
“We advocate for an evidence-based and participatory approach to addressing air pollution,” said Clean Air Asia Deputy Executive Director Glynda Bathan-Baterina.
“This is demonstrated by the Asia Blue Skies Program, wherein the development and implementation of science-based clean air action is at the very core of a sound air quality management system.”
“3M has accelerated its long-standing commitment to sustainability over the past year, in both strategy and action. Science is in everything we do, and the ultimate goal is to make lives better through it.”
“With air pollution being one of the more pressing health and environmental threats in urbanized areas around the world, we are actively seeking ways to support cities where it is critical,” said Bettina Luz, 3M Philippines’ Country Leader.
“Working with the Philippines and the City of Manila gives us an opportunity to help where we can, to improve the lives of Filipinos. And working together with the local government of Manila alongside Clean Air Asia is a great example of collaboration crucial to nation-building.”
Earlier this year, three air quality sensors were installed in Manila City to gather baseline data that, together with an emissions inventory and health mapping, will form the basis of the city’s CAAP, to be mapped out by the end of the year.