Wednesday, October 21, 2015


By Anton Antonio
October 22, 2015

Member-countries to the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) have expressed concern over the spread of haze in the ASEAN region.  The haze, emanating from Indonesian forest fires, has now reached the Philippines.  To understand the origin, causes and nature of haze, please read the following researched literature and news report about this atmospheric phenomenon.

Haze is traditionally an atmospheric phenomenon where dust, smoke and other dry particles obscure the clarity of the sky.  The World Meteorological Organization manual of codes includes a classification of horizontal obscuration into categories of fog, ice fog, steam fog mist, haze, smoke, volcanic ash, dust, sand and snow.  Sources for haze particles include farming (ploughing in dry weather), traffic, industry, and wildfires.  Seen from afar (therefore, approaching airplane) and depending upon the direction of view with respect to the sun, haze may appear brownish or bluish, while mist tends to be bluish-grey.  Whereas haze often is thought of as a phenomenon of dry air, mist formation is a phenomenon of humid air.  However, haze particles may act as condensation nuclei for the subsequent formation of mist droplets; such forms of haze are known as “wet haze.”  The term “haze”, in meteorological literature, generally is used to denote visibility-reducing aerosols of the wet type.  Such aerosols commonly arise from complex chemical reactions that occur as sulphur dioxide gases emitted during combustion are converted into small droplets of sulphuric acid.  The reactions are enhanced in the presence of sunlight, high relative humidity, and stagnant air flow.  A small component of wet haze aerosols appear to be derived from compounds released by trees, such as terpenes.  For all these reasons, wet haze tends to be primarily a warm-season phenomenon.  Large areas of haze covering many thousands of kilometers may be produced under such favourable conditions each summer.  Haze often occurs when dust and smoke particles accumulate in relatively dry air.  When weather conditions block the dispersal of smoke and other pollutants they concentrate and form a usually low-hanging shroud that impairs visibility and may become a respiratory health threat.  Industrial pollutions can result in dense haze, which is known as smog. (Wikipedia)

“INDONESIA HAZE REACHES CITIES IN MINDANAO…  Monsoon winds blowing northeast from Indonesia has brought haze to Davao and other parts of Mindanao.
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Haze has reached the Davao region since Monday morning, October 19.  Ben Rosales of state weather bureau PAGASA in Davao said monsoon winds blowing northeast from Indonesia carries the smog to Davao and other parts of Mindanao.  The haze from Indonesia’s forest fires may have worsened after Typhoon Lando (Koppu) hit the Philippines on Sunday.  The Environmental Management Bureau earlier conducted tests in Visayas and Mindanao to determine the quality of air samples after Cebu and General Santos City reports the occurrence of unusual atmospheric conditions.  It has yet to release its findings.  But local health officials have already issued bulletins for residents to take precautionary actions, especially those with respiratory problems.  Dr. Antonietta Odi, officer in charge at the General Santos City health office, said in a local TV interview that haze carries ozone and other gas particles which “irritates the nose, throat, airways, the skin and the eyes.”  She said people prone to respiratory and pulmonary infections should limit their outdoor activities and stay indoors as much as possible until an advisory is released that the air in the city is already safe for them.  Instead of dissipating, the haze that was first observed in General Santos City has spread to Iligan and other cities in Mindanao.  Dante Arriola, head of the weather bureau in General Santos City, earlier said the haze caused by the forest fire in Indonesia is visible early morning and late afternoon.  He also said it will continue to prevail over the city in the coming weeks, but could disappear by November.  Visibility, however, continues to be affected by the haze that appears to have worsened since it was first reported the first week of October.  Photographer Jaysan Lawa of Maasim in Sarangani said, “A big hot red ball is visible at 4 in the afternoon with light so diffused you can stare at the sun like a red full moon.”  Journalist Bobby Timonera said the haze was first observes Sunday in Iligan City while photojournalist Rene Lumawas began posting photos last week when the thick haze also began blanketing Davao City.  Morning joggers and early market goers in General Santos also noticed an unusually thick morning fog with the naked eye able to stare at the sun in the horizon.  The hazy horizon in General Santos went unnoticed late in September until local television station ABS-CBN reported it in its newscast.  The choking smoke, caused by Indonesian slash-and-burn farming, has been a problem in Southeast Asia for weeks.  The forest fires have affected 10 countries in the ASEAN region, including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines.  It has also raised alarms in Singapore and Malaysia as smoke delayed flights and raised the pollution levels in these countries.  Last week, Indonesia deployed 32 planes and helicopters to back up 22,000 personnel to fight the fires smothering Southeast Asia – its biggest operation to date.” --- Editha Caduaya and Edwin Espejo, with reports from Agence France-Presse/

Although the haze problem is the primary concern and responsibility of Indonesia, it is now the problem of the entire ASEAN region.  And as a regional problem, it also needs corresponding regional collaborative action.  It is probably time for all ASEAN-member nations to pull together resources to solve this problem.  An example of such action is the Philippines sending foresters, forest fire fighters and volunteers to help quell the forest fires in Indonesia.  Otherwise, if left unchecked, this problem may cause widespread respiratory and pulmonary health issues throughout the entire ASEAN region.  The Philippines’ proximity to and distance from Indonesia (compared to other ASEAN countries) is not a guarantee that we will not be affected by this haze.

Thoughts to promote positive action…

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REFERENCE:, (2015).  “Indonesia Haze Reaches Cities in Mindanao”.  Retrieved on October 22, 2015 from

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