Twenty years after the passing of the Philippine Clean Air Act, a new report by CREA and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) entitled “Aiming Higher: Benchmarking the Philippine Clean Air Act” pegged the yearly bill for neglecting air quality at $87.6 billion.
The growing scientific understanding that air pollution is more dangerous to human health than originally estimated, and the widened gap between the World Health Organization’s “safe levels” of air quality in 2021 and the Philippine National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values means that allowable concentrations for pollutants are almost 5 times higher than recommended for the full protection of Filipinos health. In addition, while the country’s air pollutant emissions from mobile, stationary, and area sources have increased since the implementation of the law, its clean air standards and the policies that control emissions from each source have not kept up with international best practices.
We found that approximately 66,000 premature deaths every year are linked to PM2.5 and NO2 pollution in the country. The estimated economic cost of this pollution amounts to US$ 87.6 billion (PHP 4.5 trillion) annually – 23% of the country’s GDP in 2019 – as a result of air pollution-related health illnesses, disabilities, and even death, all of which increase healthcare costs, affect the well-being of the workforce, and ultimately result in loss of labor and productivity. If the new WHO guidelines were met, these annual air pollution-related deaths could be reduced by more than half while economic costs would be reduced to a third.
We look closely at the progress and gaps in the implementation of key strategies under the Clean Air Act to make the case for the full implementation of the Act, updates of key standards to control air pollution, and additional budgetary support and cross-sectoral collaboration that can lead to not only clean air, but also economic gains and climate action.