MANILA - The Philippines on Wednesday ordered oil companies, including Petron Corp and local units of Shell and Chevron, to sell only Euro IV-compliant fuels by July 1 in a drive to boost air quality in the Southeast Asian country.
While there have been improvements in the capital Manila, air quality in the city of 12 million people still remains below international standards, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said.
The directive to shift from Euro II fuel norm also covers car manufacturers who can only bring in vehicles equipped with Euro IV engines starting Jan. 1, 2016, the minsiter said.
"We are imposing stricter emission standards for all vehicles to be used or introduced in the local market effective July this year," he said at a news briefing.
The sulfur content of the Euro IV fuel is up to 50 parts per million (ppm), way below the 500 ppm limit for Euro II fuel standards that the Philippines adopted in 2008, Paje said.
"Low sulfur fuels will lead to reduced emissions of particulate matter that, along with other pollutants, can penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can worsen existing respiratory and heart diseases," he said.
Paje said he had advised the oil companies to just export their remaining Euro II fuels before July 1.
The measure is a key step toward the country's goal to meet international air quality standards by 2016, he said.
The Southeast Asian nation is already many years behind other countries in taking action to improve air quality. Paje said some countries in Europe, in fact, have shifted to higher fuel standards.
The so-called Big 3 in the Philippines -- Petron, Shell and Chevron -- and their smaller rivals are supportive of the policy shift, he said.
Some car manufacturers, however, are seeking more time to prepare for the transition to new engine standards. "There is resistance up to now but we are not giving in," Paje said.