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PH nearing total phase out of ozone-depleting substances

Coron, Palawan – Soon, the imperilled ozone layer will be all smiles on the Philippines — that is, if figures from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are to be the basis.

Latest numbers from the department’s Environmental Management Bureau – Philippine Ozone Desk (EMB-POD) show the country is on its way to totally phasing out all substances that harm the ozone layer.

Image courtesy of DENR-EMB-POD

Image courtesy of DENR-EMB-POD

“All [substances] have been phased out according to the commitment period,” DENR-EMB-POD Program Manager Ella Deocadiz said in her presentation during the recent three-day Media Workshop on Ozone and Climate Linkages spearheaded by DENR here.“Currently, the only remaining substance for phase-out in the Philippines is hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC).”

Substances that have been phased out as of January 1, 2010 — mostly ahead of target schedule — are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachlorides (CTCs), methyl chloroforms (MCs), non-quarantine and pre-shipment methyl bromides (MBs). These substances are chlorinated, fluorinated or brominated hydrocarbons, which can react with ozone molecules in the stratosphere and deplete the protective layer. They are thus called ozone-depleting substances (ODS).

Ozone depletion or damage occurs when these chlorinated, fluorinated or brominated hydrocarbons react with molecules in the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is found. The stratospheric ozone layer serves as the Earth’s natural shield that protects everyone in the planet from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. A damaged ozone layer means easy penetration to the Earth’s surface for these sun’s UV rays.

Ozone depletion, which has rapidly increased since the 1950s, is more widely known as the “ozone hole” phenomenon.

By “commitment period,” Deocadiz was referring to the target date of phase out of the said substances, as committed by the Philippines to the Montreal Protocol (MP), where the country is one of the “developing country” signatories. MP identified and started to regulate these substances when the global agreement was drawn up in September 1987.

In the Philippines, CTCs have been phased out by January 1, 1996, four years before its 2010 schedule. HCFCs are expected to be phased out by 2040, with the first target of 10 percent by next year.

Prior to phase-out, ODS are practcally everywhere —  from aerosols (which contain CFCs), to fire extinguishers (halons), to computer circuit board (cleaned using solvents with CFCs and MCs).

“HCFCs and HCFC-containing blends are man-made chemicals widely used as refrigerants, foam blowing and fire extinguishing agents, aerosol propellants, solvents and as feedstock in chemical production,” Deocadiz said.

Unknown to many Filipinos, HCFCs are all over shopping malls, as they have chillers and centralized air-conditioners, which particularly use HCFC123, as coolers. Going to malls has practically become a national pastime, especially during the peak of the summer heat.

To assist the country in reducing the consumption of HCFCs, the Philippines HCFC Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP) under the United Nations Environment Programme was approved in 2012. Financially supported by the Multilateral Fund, HPMP primarily deals with the consumption or importation and usage of HCFCs.

A total of 162.86 ozone depletion potential (ODP) tonnes is the baseline HCFC consumption in the country; importation-wise, base level in 2013 was 2,644 metric tonnes (MT). By 2015, HCFC import are expected to have been gradually reduced to 2,379.6 MT or by 10 percent.

HCFC-22, widely used in the air-conditioner manufacturing and servicing sectors, accounts for 67 percent of the consumption; HCFC-141b (foam and solvent sectors), 32 percent; and HCFC-123 (commercial/industrial air conditioning and fire extinguishing sectors), one percent.