Of all of the vehicles running on Philippine roads, no other mode of transportation has been the subject of legislation, anger and complaints more than the common jeepney. It?s all too easy to see many of their faults, but few actually know the circumstances they face that influence their prevalence on the streets.

To put it in perspective, jeepney drivers and their operators are just trying their best to make ends meet. A quick glance at how a regulated route operates can give keen insight into their conditions.

In such a route, the drivers pay the operators a fixed sum (the boundary) as hire-payment for the use of the jeepney. The boundary covers the maintenance, licensing and financing costs of the jeepneys, as well as the profits of the operators. The difference between the total fares collected by the drivers in a day and the sum of their boundary payments and fuel and cleaning expenses constitute their net take home pay.

Increased fuel prices without proportional increases in fares or passenger numbers severely compromise the net take home pay of drivers. Today, it is less than PhP240.00 a day. A few end their day even owing the operators. Of course, more fuel efficient vehicles will likely curb this, but with the steep price, many drivers and operators are left with no choice but to make use of old pre-chamber diesel technology which is highly inefficient and environmentally destructive.

A new project called the Climate Friendly Cities (CFC) project, a collaborative project of NGOs, private sector representatives and partner LGUs, seeks to change all that. The Makati City Government, together with GRIPP (Green Renewable Independent Power Producer, a Negros Occidental based power producer) and Greenpeace have recently agreed to pilot a project that aims to power a fleet of jeepneys with the city?s own harnessed biogas. The project will integrate two service industries of the pilot area (public transportation and municipal solid waste management) with the introduction of technologies that utilize clean energy.

The project will harness recovered biogas, or methane, from liquid or wet organic wastes from the livestock, food processing and beverage industries, as well as municipal solid waste and sewage treatment plants. All of these will be collected to run a generator to produce electricity.

An anaerobic biodigester will biologically break down organic waste collected from the wet markets and commercial food establishments. First, both the wet market and commercial food waste streams will be thoroughly cleaned of all inert material such as metals and plastics. The wet market waste will be shred while the commercial food waste will be mixed. These waste streams will then be fed into different digesters where they will be ?solubilized? (their total solid content will be reduced from an initial 25% to between 8 to 10% by the introduction of an effluent such as pig manure or abattoir waste). The resulting slurry will then be heated to accelerate the activity of bacteria in decomposing the solids, thereby producing gas. The gas will, in turn, be fed to a gas engine that will produce electricity. Its emissions are only carbon dioxide and water (in the form of vapor). This electricity will be used to charge up jeepneys outfitted with electric motors and batteries (E-Jeepneys).

The current pilot project plans to make use of 6 electric jeepneys and a 60KW biogas digester. This digester will be situated in a depot that will serve as a charging station and maintenance center for the fleet. With this station, a maximum of 5 jeeps can be charged at a time for a period of 8 hours per vehicle. Each jeepney, designed by Philippine renewables firm Solar Electric Company has a capacity of 12 passengers. These jeeps will be circulating the route on a schedule, ensuring that the maximum number of jeepneys can service the route at any given time. The fleet will undergo technical and commercial tests from 6 to 9 months. These tests will determine the technical and commercial feasibility of the E-Jeepneys as a component of the project.

If proven feasible, the project will be implemented in Bacolod City as well. GRIPP and Greenpeace assure that the endeavor?s components can easily adjusted to suit local factors (i.e. solar or wind power to recharge the jeepneys, or electric tuktuk?s in Thailand).

Indeed there are some who disapprove of electric powered vehicles, citing the need to recharge the vehicle?s batteries placing extra strain on power plants. The project addresses these with the biogas digester which places no additional burden on the power grid. As for range being limited by batteries, the multiple vehicles to cycle through can ensure that there are still running electric vehicles while the others are being charged. With fuel (the city?s waste products) provided for free, operators and driver need only worry about vehicle maintenance, significantly lower than conventional diesel engines, thus increasing the net take home pay of the drivers by reducing their expenses on fuel.

What is truly admirable about the project is its multi-pronged approach to addressing several urban problems such as air pollution and solid waste. The product is an efficient transport system that satisfies environmentalists, local industry proprietors, jeepney drivers and operators, and certainly the most important, the commuter.

Makati denizens can definitely look forward to a more quiet, environmentally friendly, and guilt free commute.

Athena Ronquillo, Chair, Board of Trustees, +63 917 813 1562
Reina Garcia, Coordinator, +63 917 300 1585

Jasper Inventor, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner, +63 917 300 9567
Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace Media Campaigner, +63 916 374 4969, +63 2 434 7034 loc 104

Makati City:
Information and Community Relations Department, +63 2 899 8954