PRESS RELEASE | Health Advocates Launch Air Pollution Watchdog

Healthy Air Advocates (from left to right): Khevin Yu of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Dr. Roger Dazo of the Philippine Medical Association, Dr. Stef dela Cruz of Vegan X Movement and Healthy Energy Ambassador, Ramon San Pascual HCWH Asia Executive Director, Commissioner for Visayas and Chair of Health Committee Rhea Penaflor of the National Youth Commission, Dexter Galban and Via Roderos of Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health and HEAL Network

Quezon City, Philippines – Health and environmental justice advocates led by Health Care Without Harm launched today the Health Care for Cleaner Air Alliance which came together to address the country’s growing air pollution woes.

“Air pollution is not just an environmental problem—it is a health menace too,” pointed out Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director of Health Care Without Harm. “Because our environment is a determinant of our health, it pays to be as cautious of the air we breathe as we are of the food we eat, and we shouldn’t be poisoning our body through a natural act such as breathing,” he added.

In May, WHO released the result of a study that examined the extent by which both outdoor and household air pollution are impacting human health, which found that “around seven million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air”.  The study also showed that more than 90 percent of the global population is breathing in high levels of pollutants.

According to the WHO Report, of the 7 million premature deaths due to air pollution, a third, or 2.2 million, were from the Western Pacific region, which includes the Philippines. Heart disease or stroke caused more than half of the 2.2 million deaths related to air pollution.  Other leading ailments are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and pneumonia.

“It is unconscionable for doctors like us to allow people, whose health we took an oath to defend, to be continuously exposed to this health risk," said former Department of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral. “It is time we embrace the adage of putting a premium on prevention of disease over cure. Let us, health professionals, come together in addressing air pollution in order to tackle these growing health problems from their roots.  We address air pollution, we address these diseases.  If we can unite against health issues like smoking, we can definitely unite against air pollution,” she stressed.

Unfortunately, the Philippines ranked third in the number of deaths at 45.3 per 100,000 due to outdoor air pollution. China recorded 81.5 deaths, and Mongolia, 48.8 respectively.

For his part, Dr. Roger Dazo, outgoing CAMANAVA Governor of the Philippine Medical Association said that, “45.3 deaths per 100,000 Filipinos due to air pollution is 45.3 Filipinos too many.  We can’t afford to lose our countrymen to preventable health problems it brings like heart disease and stroke. It is time for us to start demanding for better air quality standards in order to protect our dear kababayans, and the health sector should take active part in supporting the government to do that.”

This comes at the heels of the 31st founding anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources where Secretary Roy Cimatu pointed out that, “Environmental protection is not the government’s responsibility alone because everyone has a part to play in protecting the environment from damage.”

Furthermore, it aligns with the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte where he emphasized that, "The protection of the environment must be top priority."

The WHO report also added that outdoor air pollution is mainly caused by the “inefficient energy use in households, industries, the agriculture and transport sectors, as well as coal-fired power plants.”

“Air pollution dampens all health care efforts," according to Healthy Energy Ambassador and Vegan x Movement founder Dr. Stef dela Cruz. "Air pollution either worsens or causes disease, and one of its top drivers in rural areas is agriculture,". dela Cruz as a Healthy Energy Ambassador, also adds that "All sectors including health should start working together to ensure the steady transition of our country towards renewable energy and away from highly polluting and health-damaging fossil fuel energy like coal. We have already reached the point where transition towards renewable energy is not only possible in our country but it is also necessary for good health,”.

The growing Health Care for Cleaner Air Alliance is composed of doctors, other health professionals and advocates representing different health organizations, as well as different environmental groups in the Philippines.###


Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Asia is part of a global nonprofit organization that works towards environmental and sustainable hospital operations and in encouraging the transition to renewable energy as the sector’s global climate action contribution.  

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