Updated 15:15 PM PHT Mon, March 30, 2015
(CNN Philippines) — In 2014, the Philippines' air quality ranked 85th out of 178 countries, according to the Environmental Performance Index of Yale University and Columbia University.
That's not surprising — a report from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) shows that motor vehicles have been increasing "rapidly" with an average growth rate of 6% over the past decade.
The same report notes that motor vehicles emit a vast amount of air pollutants, saying: "The road sector is identified to have seriously caused the environmental damages particularly in urban areas in the Philippines."
"Limited attention has been accorded to the environmental problems in the transport sector. The environment situation in highly urbanized cities especially in Metro Manila has not improved remarkably," it adds.
Last week, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued a directive (DAO No. 2015-14) imposing stricter emission standards for vehicles beginning July.
The order limits a vehicle's carbon monoxide emission to 2.0 grams per kilometer (g/km) for gasoline-fed passenger and light-duty vehicles instead of the current 2.2 g/km, and 0.9 g/km from 1.0 g/km for diesel vehicles.
Likewise, the order mandates all new vehicles to be used or introduced in the Philippine market by 2016 to be equipped with Euro 4/IV engines and be compliant with Euro 4/IV emission standards.
The European Union introduced the 4/IV standard in 2005. Since 2014, it has been implementing the Euro 6 standard for light passenger and commercial vehicles.
Oil companies will also be required to sell fuel compliant with the Euro 4/IV standard.
In a statement, the DENR explained: "Euro 4 has sulfur content of only 50 parts per million (ppm) for both diesel and gasoline, compared with 500 ppm for Euro 2. Benzene in Euro 4 gasoline, on the other hand, is only 1% by volume compared to 5% in Euro 2. As for aromatics, Euro 4 fuel contains only 35% by volume compared to Euro 2 which prescribes no limit."
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje explained that cleaner fuel is a benefit to public health: "Low sulfur fuels will lead to reduced emissions of particulate matter. This particulate matter, along with other pollutants, can penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can worsen existing respiratory and heart diseases."