MANILA – After experiencing haze in the past weeks caused by Indonesian forest fires, recent and frequent rains in Southeast Asia brought hope to officials and citizens that the hazardous smoke in the region may soon dispel.
Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore had the clearest skies lately, while the Philippines and Thailand dealt with air pollution, disrupted flights and respiratory illnesses.
“We can see clouds again! I am sure that all of us in Singapore woke up this morning and felt so good that we had clear blue skies agains,” Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post.
“We should have blue skies and no more haze,” Malaysia Meteorological Department director-general Che Gayah said in an AFP report.
With the ongoing El Niño phenomenon, experts earlier warned of a region-wide haze that may be the worst yet. Due to the dry spell, many feared that the rainy season could be delayed for months.
In the Philippines, air pollutants were first observed in Visayas and Mindanao two weeks ago brought by winds from Indonesian forest fires. This raised concern on the health impact of haze – made up of fine dusk, smoke or light vapor.
“Don’t underestimate the ill effects of haze. It’s worsening the already compromised quality of air that we breathe imposing health risks to everybody,” Department of Health (DOH) regional secretary Dr. Kadil Sinolinding Jr. said in a CNN Philippines report.
Local officials then called on their constituents to take precautionary measures against haze. The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) local office urged the public to wear eye goggles, dust mask respirators and other protective gears against pollutants.
“People should limit outdoor exertion especially those with heart or respiratory diseases, such as asthma. They should stay indoors and rest as much as possible,” EMB regional director William Cuñado said in a The Standard report.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional secretary Kahal Kedtag noted that the haze will be gone if heavy downpour with strong winds occur as in the country well.