Philippines' dirty jeepneys starting to turn green

With exhausts that belch out dark clouds of fumes, drivers who arrogantly break road rules and sardine-can-like interiors, "jeepney" mini-buses are an unlikely source of pride in the Philippines.

The iconic vehicles with their flamboyant paint designs are much loved as a symbol of national ingenuity because Filipinos created them from surplus US military jeeps after American forces left at the end of World War II.

However, six decades later, they are also becoming known as environmental vandals because their huge diesel-powered motors are one of the major contributors to air pollution and ensuing health problems in Philippine cities.

"Because the old jeepneys are all diesel fed and so inefficient, they produce a lot of pollution," said Red Constantino, director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, a Manila-based non-government organisation.

Constantino, along with a small collection of politicians, business groups and other NGOs, has embarked on a campaign to turn the Philippines' main form of public transport green by replacing them with so-called "e-jeepneys".

The e-jeepneys look like little more than glorified golf carts, but they are an emissions-free form of transport powered by electricity that carry a dozen people each.

After charging for between six and eight hours, the e-jeepneys can travel about 70 kilometres (45 miles) at speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour, according to their manufacturer, Philippine Utility Vehicle.

Makati, Metro Manila's financial district and arguably its most orderly city, introduced the e-jeepneys on two so-called "green routes" late last year.

"Because of the e-jeepney we were able to reduce smoke-belching problems... and that was able to give an answer to our problems of air pollution," Makati mayor Jejomar Binay told AFP on board one of the mini-buses recently.

With only 15 servicing Makati, compared with 60,000 licensed traditional jeepneys across all of Metro Manila, Binay may have been overstating the environmental benefits in his enthusiasm for the project.

Nevertheless, Constantino, a former climate change campaigner for Greenpeace, said the Makati project was crucial in offering a showcase for the future.

"It's very important to have solutions on the ground to show people that these types of things are viable," he said.

"Our goal is to eventually replace all public utility vehicles with appropriate electric ones."

Constantino said momentum was starting to build, with a third green route to be opened in Makati next month and other city governments in Metro Manila placing orders to buy e-jeepneys.

Meanwhile, Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan island in the southwest of the archipelago, is developing as a second flagship city for the planned e-transport revolution.

Puerto Princesa authorities are aiming to introduce an e-jeepney fleet, but their major ambition is to replace the city's 4,000 gasoline-powered tricycles with electric "e-trikes", Constantino said.

A big next step for Puerto Princesa and Makati is to build biogas plants to power the e-vehicles with organic waste from local markets and households, rather than using fossil-fuel derived electricity as is currently the case.

Puerto Princesa began construction of a one-megawatt biogas plant, costing 2.4 million dollars, in February to fuel its electric public transport fleet.

Tropical storm Ketsana, which submerged vast parts of Manila in October last year, delayed a similar project for Makati but Constantino said that would also soon get underway.

Amid the hype for the e-jeepneys - they have won a plethora of positive reports in the local media - traditional jeepney drivers remain skeptical.

"We are not against e-jeeps, we know they are for our common good but they only work in Makati where roads are smooth," said Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines president Zeny Maranan.

"I also want to see how long e-jeeps will last for. And I see maintenance as a problem... our current jeepneys have durable chassis and bodies that can withstand collisions. How about an e-jeep, how sturdy is it?"

Nevertheless, Maranan conceded that old jeepneys - with powerful engines and bodies originally designed for battle rather than city traffic - had serious environmental flaws.

"It is difficult to deny the fact about the black smoke emissions and poor performances of our jeepneys," she said.

Maranan said the jeepney industry was exploring ways of switching the vehicles' fuel source from diesel to natural gas.

However few conversions have taken place and Maranan said a green revolution would not happen without massive state funding.

"The government should take the initiative to save our environment. If it will provide the budget, we are willing to take part and have the e-jeep system implemented," she said.

Constantino and the others involved in the e-jeepney are refusing to wait for such an unlikely scenario to occur.

"We are trying to make the solutions of tomorrow available today," he said.

kma/jvg/lb

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?