MANILA, Philippines—For one Filipino worker, living amid the haze blanketing Singapore for several days now is like standing beside a grill all day. Only, the smoke is everywhere, and there is virtually nowhere to go to escape it.
“This haze is really extreme. I never imagined I will experience this. It’s like a movie, an end-of-the world feeling. You feel that you have nowhere to go, and you feel like you’re suffocating but you can’t do anything,” said the Filipino.
Working in the city state for five years now, the Filipino heard of at least two friends who have decided to return to the Philippines for the meantime as “they can’t take it anymore.”
“You can smell it more now. Parang ‘yung siga sa umaga (It’s like the morning bonfires of dry leaves). But here, it’s all over the country. Amoy siga ang buong Singapore (All of Singapore smells like one bonfire of leaves),” said the software consultant, who asked not to be named to protect her employment.
The Philippine Embassy in Singapore on Friday issued a health advisory for Filipinos as the haze reached 401 in the city state’s pollution standards index (PSI), the worst in history according to reports.
The blanket of smoke enveloped one of Asia’s smallest, cleanest and most pollution-conscious countries this week as smoke blew in from nearby Sumatra, Indonesia, where forest fires have been raging for weeks.
Singapore authorities have been advising those vulnerable—the elderly, pregnant women, children and those known to have heart and lung conditions—to avoid going out. Local doctors have reported a 20 percent spike in medical consultations.
Expected to remain for weeks as Indonesian authorities struggle to put out the Sumatra fires, the haze has become an irritant in diplomatic ties between Singapore and Jakarta.
The Embassy advisory urged Filipinos to “stay indoors, use air conditioning and air filters if available.” The mission also told Filipinos to wear masks at home and when they go out.
“Drink lots of liquid. Minimize physical exertion outdoors. Take medicine if you have medical conditions, and vitamins to boost the immune system,” said the embassy.
There were an estimated 180,000 Filipinos in Singapore as of 2011, according to the latest stock estimate of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.