MANILA, January 4, 2003 (STAR)  By Marichu Villanueva  - With the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1999 taking effect this year, President Arroyo announced yesterday specific government measures that would be implemented to mitigate the cost impact of this new law on public transport operators.

For a start, the President said that the mandated gas emission testing under the CAA for all public transport vehicles like jeepneys, tricycles and buses would be conducted at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) at reduced government fee of P90 per unit.

The service costs P300 at privately run gas emission testing centers.

The Presidential announcement was made yesterday before the rally of Tricycles Operators and Drivers Association (TODA) held at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Mrs. Arroyo admitted that the move was in response to the petition of public transport leaders, who met with the President on Christmas Day in MalacaŮang, for a moratorium on their compliance to the CAA.

"The CAA already took effect last Jan. 1. Thatís the law and we cannot do anything about it. We all have a duty to follow the law," Mrs. Arroyo said.

However, she revealed that public transport operators will be given three months to comply with the law and would be provided with the means on how to comply.

In their meeting with the President, the transport leaders complained that the cost of compliance to the CAA would make a dent on their basic livelihood as the gas emission testing fee was too expensive.

"So we did a system that this P300 would only for private sector while those for public transport will be done at LTO so that instead of P300, it would only be P90," the President explained to the loud applause of the TODA audience.

The President expressed satisfaction that TODA representatives made a commitment to follow the rule of law.

She also assured TODA leaders that the gas emission testing, a registration requirement, would in fact enhance the survival of their industry as it will protect them from registering vehicles that would only shrink their passenger market and reduce their income.

At the same gathering, the Chief Executive ordered the grant of P1 million from the Presidentís Social Fund to TODA as "working capital" to start their own gas emission testing center.

Moreover, the government, through the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), would help them start a cooperative to put up their own gasoline station business.

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