As air pollution continues to rise in Metro Manila, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) looks for more innovative and communal ways of lowering emissions from motor vehicles.

In their latest endeavor, the DENR has partnered with major transport groups composed of Public Utility Jeepney (PUJ) operators in an effort to make the quality of air in Metro Manila reach an internationally acceptable level by June 2016.

The reason the public transport sector has been sought out is because according to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), 80-percent of our air pollution comes from motor vehicles. The remaining 20-percent comes from factory smoke stacks and open burning.

Last month, the LTFRB backtracked on its decision to phase out jeepneys aged 15 years and above. A major blow to the full implementation of the Clean Air Act.

In a meeting between the DENR and transport groups Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas (LTOP), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO), Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEDJODAP), and Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburbs Drivers Association Nationwide (PASANG-MASDA) a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was agreed upon and signed.

"We fully recognizes the role we need to play in the fight against air pollution and we are ready to do their part," said LTOP President Orlando Marquez.

Under the MOA, operators are to voluntarily submit their units (PUJs) for free emissions testing that will be done right in their garages or terminals so that each PUJ complies with local emissions standards before they operate.

"The purpose is not to apprehend public utility vehicles but to help our transport groups address their emissions and ensure that their vehicles comply with the law before they drive around major thoroughfares," said DENR Assistant Secretary and concurrent EMB Director Juan Miguel T. Cuna.

There are plans by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to put up anti-smoke belching operations (ASBO), to which the DENR promised technical assistance should the need arise. The results of which are to be made available to all participating parties and the general public.

"We at the LTFRB support any move to address the air pollution problem, particularly in the NCR," said LTFRB Chairman Atty. Winston Ginez.

A resolution was also signed during the meeting, which indicated the establishment and operation of appropriate air quality information systems in the NCR; non-contact apprehension of smoke belchers; closure of "non-appearance" emission testing centers; and carbon sequestration through the government’s National Greening Program.

"Strengthening the enforcement of air quality management as stipulated in the Clean Air Act is more crucial now more than ever and we need the full cooperation of the LTO and the LTFRB, as well as the transport sector," Cuna said.