Dirty Air, Dirty Air Monitoring?
Can a project for
monitoring air pollution turn out to be as dirty as the air it is supposed
to monitor? This is the question provoked by the DENR’s Air Monitoring
Network Project, for which the government agency has been paying a
contractor, through a foreign loan, to set up, maintain, and operate 10
air quality monitoring stations in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN
Can a project for
monitoring air pollution turn out to be as dirty as the air it is supposed
This is the question
provoked by the Air Monitoring Network Project (AMNP) of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), for which the government agency
has been paying a contractor, through a foreign loan, to set up, maintain,
and operate 10 air quality monitoring stations in Metro Manila and nearby
Based on a 2005
report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Metro Manila ranks among
the urban areas in the world with the most polluted air -- next only to
Mexico City, Shanghai, and New Delhi. Metro Manila, the country’s National
Capital Region (NCR), had been climbing the air pollution charts for the
few years previous to 2005.
This is the situation
that the Metro Manila Air Quality Improvement Sector Development Program (MMAQISDP)
was supposed to mitigate. Funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to
the tune of $623.36 million, the MMAQISDP was supposed to be implemented
from December 1998 to December 2006 in support of the implementation of
the Clean Air Act of 1999.
The AMNP is part of
the MMAQISDP and is funded by ADB Loan No. 1665 aiming to set up, operate,
and maintain a network of 10 air monitoring stations around the Metro
Manila airshed, which includes Pampanga, Laguna, Cavite, and Batangas.
The ten stations are
located in the following areas: Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan
Road, Quezon City; Bureau of Broadcasting Services, Marulas, Valenzuela
City; Clark Air Field, San Fernando City, Pampanga; Polytechnic University
of the Philippines, Sta. Mesa, Manila; Cavite State University, Indang;
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City; Bureau of Plant Industry, Los Banos, Laguna;
Provincial Veterinary Office, Batangas City; New Bilibid Prison,
Muntinlupa City; and Valle Verde Subdivision, Pasig City (mobile van).
These stations are expected to measure criteria air pollutants like sulfur
dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter
and total suspended solids; as well as non-criteria pollutants like
benzene, toluene, and xylene (henceforth to be referred to in combination
The AMNP can be
traced all the way to November 2000, when the DENR called for tenders in
the repair and upgrading of the ten stations. The only responsive bidder
was ETI-IMACH, a joint venture between Emission Technology, Inc. (ETI), a
Guam-based U.S. company; and its local partner, Industramach, Inc. (IMACH),
an accredited equipment supplier of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
On Nov. 26, 2002,
then Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez signed a contract with
ETI-IMACH for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the ten stations with
full concurrence from the DENR and the ADB. The operation and maintenance
of the ten stations by ETI-IMACH began in October 2003 and was to have
ended on December 31, 2006.
The project also
entailed the involvement of a quality assistance or quality control
consultant to ensure that all information produced by the air monitoring
network meets quality standards. The DENR executed a contract with
Maunsell Hongkong, Ltd. on April 13, 2004.
“It turned out to be
a dirty and expensive environmental failure,” saidx Celemente Bautista
Jr., chairman of the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE),
in an interview. “It didn’t serve its purpose.”
From November 2003 to
October 2004, the DENR paid ETI-IMACH $64,198.07 monthly for operations
and maintenance. ETI-IMACH received the payments even at times when not
all 10 stations were operating simultaneously.
ETI reported certain
deficiencies in the Quality Assurance Project Plan to the DENR in October
2004. The next month, payment for the operation and maintenance of the
stations was suspended over technical and contractual issues. On Dec. 22
that same year, Undersecretary for Forestry and Environment Ramon Paje and
the EMB issued a memorandum suspending payments to ETI and Maunsell for
inadequate performance of the consultants.
One of the bigger
problems to crop up was what would be seen as ETI’s use of unreliable
On Feb. 14, 2005, the
EMB met with ETI-IMACH to discuss issues related to ETI’s contractual
obligations. Among the issues discussed were delays in project
“The reason of ETI
for the delay in the operation of the BTX analyzers in all stations which
was the delayed site acquisition, was not accepted by the EMB,” wrote Jean
N. Rosete of the MMAQISDP in the minutes of the Feb. 14, 2005 meeting
which she prepared. “It was pointed out by EMB that it is more of (a)
technology problem (BTX AIM
analyzers). Hence, the ETI was requested to get a certification for
verification from the manufacturer...”
Among those listed in
the minutes of the meeting as having been in attendance was Rep. Edcel
That same day, IMACH
withdrew as ETI’s local partner, citing among others what IMACH managing
director Eduardo Mendoza described as ETI’s use of “ineffective”
Wrote Mendoza in a
letter to then Environment Secretary Mike Defensor:
Invoking its supposed reputation as an
equipment expert, ETI recommended the use of Air Instrument Measurement
Open-path Analyzer to measure Benzene, Toluene and Xylene (BTX) in ambient
air. Despite information that AIM analyzer is still in its developmental
stage, ETI made Industramach and EMB believe that this equipment is
already a developed and recognized ambient monitor. Unfortunately, ETI has
failed to provide for the requested documentation by EMB to prove that
this AIM analyzer is no longer in its developmental stage.
Moreover, the AIM analyzer has proven to
be ineffective to measure the BTX parameters over a short open path length
of ten (10) meters which was ETI’s biggest selling point for the approval
of the equipment. Initial tests conducted of the analyzer installed at the
Ateneo station could not provide quality BTX data. To make this analyzer
unit work, our Filipino Instrumentation Specialists had to modify some of
its hardware and totally its software, which proved to be expensive to
(set up) and operate.
The BTX analyzers
cost almost $1 million.
Mendoza also cited
ETI’s alleged non-compliance with contractual obligations, as well as
employment of “unqualified and unprofessional” personnel.
These issues prompted
several reviews and inspections. The contractual and technical issues
raised against ETI, however, remained unsolved, leading Usec. Armando de
Castro to issue, on October 7, 2005, a final demand letter instructing ETI
to comply with the contract.
ETI has refused to
comply with the DENR’s final demand letter.
Lagman and the ADB
have also pressured the DENR to continue the project.
In the minutes of a
Sept. 15, 2005 between the DENR, ETI, and Maunsell, Lagman was cited as
having expressed his intention to mediate between ETI and the EMB
regarding financial issues of the contract; even as the legal aspect of
his involvement had been passed on to his son Atty. Edcel Lagman Jr.,
based on an April 28, 2005 letter from the Lagman, Lagman and Mones Law
The ADB went to the
extent of endorsing ETI, and commissioning Mr. Gordon Jones to conduct an
evaluation from Sept. 27 to 29, 2005. Jones concluded that all monitoring
stations are producing data in compliance with U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (USEPA) standards.
On Nov. 11, 2005,
Shihiru Date, an ADB transport specialist, wrote to Defensor saying that
since Jones had completed his tasks the contractual issues related to the
project had already been addressed. “Given the agreement reached, the
progress made, and the assessment provided by USEPA, we would not see any
reason at this stage to further delay the payment related to ETI’s work
since November 2004,” wrote Giraud.
After evaluating the
Jones report later that month, Undersecretary de Castro wrote on behalf of
the EMB to Patrick Giraud, Director of the Infrastructure Division of the
ADB’s Southeast Asia Department, saying that the DENR could not possibly
agree with Date’s recommendations since ETI had yet to comply with the
technical and contruactual issues and the resolution of contractual issues
is “outside Jones’ competence.”
ETI once more refused
to comply. On Dec. 7, 2005, ETI submitted a monthly report advising the
DENR that various network stations are to be brought off-line and the
network is degrading for lack of operational resources, as a result of
“delinquency in payment.”
In 2006, the EMB made
several recommendations for the termination of the project. This was
concurred with by Atty. Armi Jane Roa Borje, officer-in-charge for the
DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, in a Nov. 24, 2006 memorandum for
then Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes.
On Dec. 14, 2006, ETI
president Robert Wilson wrote to EMB director Ely Anthony Ouano,
emphasizing the agreement forged the day before “in the presence and with
the conformity of Sec. Angelo Reyes,” stipulating that the DENR-EMB shall
immediately pay ETI in full the amount of $1.03 million corresponding to
the billings of November 2004-February 2006.
“It is very illogical
for the DENR secretary to pursue this project without considering the
position of his officials, without considering the position of IMACH, one
of the contractors, and without considering the country’s experience in
the three years of the project,” Bautista told Bulatlat.
“There could be
something dirty going on there,” the KPNE chairman added. “There could be
corruption behind that.” Bulatlat
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© 2007 Bulatlat
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