Why Manila Needs The Green Jeepney

Endika Aboitiz | Aug. 31, 2017

There are, and there will be many arguments against the jeepney as having any future in Philippine mass transport, and they are surely all correct. In this world of accelerating change, diversity has to reign, so we see all sides of the story. Everything is under threat and change.

All of us have used the famous Philippine Jeepney at one point of our lives or another. It is a symbol of our creativity and ingenuity as people, the resilience of our culture and our entrepreneurial spirit.

Our economy is dependent today on two major pillars – Overseas Workers and BPO/ICT Call Centers et al. Our agricultural sector has its hands tied by an agrarian reform law that is anti agriculture and anti poor as much as it is pro inefficiency. Our geography does not favor manufacturing. We will be a beneficiary of PC 16 ( Post China 16 ) but we cannot be a major manufacturing player. We are located wrongly, our logistics infrastructure is not competitive, and our government keeps sending messages, administration after administration, that we are not serious about anything. Where we can win is in tourism. Manila does not have content. Manila’s traffic is horrific. Manila does not have landing slots nor a decent airport. Some foreign guests will go to the south.

Our jeepney is iconic. They, our jeepneys, are inefficient in many ways and we should not keep all of them, we must keep some of them to add flavor and content to an already miserable metropolis that I am calling Contiguous Manila, of around 30 million people.

Let’s save some of those jeepneys. Let’s preserve the newer ones, the prettier ones, the sexy ones and those that are larger and more efficient. Nothing is phased out in three years. Let’s save some of those jobs using the LKY formula – do what works & do what makes sense. Saving 300,000 jeepneys makes no sense. Saving 50,000 as the rest phase down does. They will be there anyway.

We will need a transition – let’s manage it with creativity. The Green Jeepney as the spark plug to the E-Transport Movement that is here. The Green Jeepney as an addition to the color of Manila as a destination in addition to Intramuros, Solaire, our malls and Airforce One.

If we go the route of financing them through some institution, we will get there, but it will take longer. The solution is for the government to pay for the conversion. This is a more powerful middle class-creating engine than the Conditional Cash Transfer. This is the teaching-to-fish parable in the better – it is the teaching the fisherman to catch more fish. I realize there are practical difficulties in government doling out money. We have found a way with the CCT, which benefits are questionable overall and definitely a waste in many particular situations. It was used extensively as a political tool in the past.

Here, we can turn a jeepney driver into the lower middle class or upper lower class overnight. Here, we create content for Manila tourism. Here, we save lives through cleaning up the dirtiest of our polluters. Let’s not let the rusty wheels of government get in our way as they do all too often.

We do not argue with the eventual phase out of most of the 300,000 jeepneys. We argue for the keeping of 50,000 of the newest and prettiest.

Also, that critical mass will be the spark plug of E-Transport and cleaner air for our grandchildren. Only E-vehicles can clean up Manila. We have seen it everywhere – more efficient internal combustion engines cannot even cover the increase pollutive effect of more vehicles.  See the Diesel disaster of Volkswagen and Europe. See the new killing fields of Peking pollution.  See the new lungs of street children in Mumbai.

Let us not wait for Manila to be the next Mumbai or Beijing. Let’s not wait for the air to be too hard to breathe for us to start something. We need to be proactive rather than reactive. In a world where the only thing constant is change… then we need to know when to embrace what change is good. 

Let that be the Green Jeepney… sure it has a long way to go… but we can always improvise… it’s what the Filipino does best. 

Let’s be the generation that embraces it… a legacy we can leave behind for future generations of Filipinos.