SPECIAL REPORT: As Metro Manila’s lockdown eases in phases, air pollution rebounds with the return of transport and industry

The ‘Special Report: Managing Air Quality Beyond COVID-19‘ for the Philippines, co-released with Greenpeace, contains CREA analyses that found air quality improvements as a result of the measures to contain COVID-19 rebounded in the country’s capital.

The first 30 days of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila saw fine particulate matter (PM2.5) drop to the lowest levels on record. Similarly, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels on for the entire duration of the ECQ – from March 15 to May 15 – were approximately 52% lower in comparison to the levels of 2019. This was mainly caused by a significant reduction in transportation activity as 65% of the country’s emissions come from mobile sources.

When ECQ changed to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) on May 16, a closer examination of seven major cities in the metro – Makati, Pasig, Manila, Quezon, Marikina, San Juan, and Caloocan – showed that NO2 and PM2.5 in some cities had already begun increasing; with the exception of Caloocan, which had not experienced a sustained reduction in air pollution.

By the time of the general community quarantine (GCQ) on June 1, NO2 in all of the cities had returned to levels at par or higher than those before the lockdown period. Although air quality remains improved in comparison to previous years, a continued increase is expected as the country remains heavily reliant on highly polluting fossil fuel sources across all sectors. The restrictions on public transportation that are currently in place as part of the GCQ will likely cause further stress on the country’s transport infrastructure and contribute to degrading air quality; all this greatly impacting many who depend on public transport for mobility and livelihood.

The report recommends recovery efforts that prioritize clean energy sources, green transportation options, and enhanced micro mobility around localities, to keep air pollution at manageable levels and to reduce the compounding risks to human lives and livelihoods brought about by the health and climate crises.

Read the full report.