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How do we put more ejeepneys, electric and hybrid buses, and other low-carbon vehicles on the road?

By Reina Garcia

Last month, I swapped the cool January days of Tacloban for a couple of even colder January days of Tagaytay for a workshop organized by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC). The workshop is one of the first steps to the implementation of a joint project titled “Promotion of Low Carbon Urban Transport Systems in the Philippines”, whose objective is to “create an enabling environment for the commercialization of low carbon mass public urban transport systems in the Philippines”.

In this context, low carbon mass public urban transport systems, shortened to the acronym LCT during the workshop, is limited to electric and hybrid vehicles in public transport, and the automated guideway transit (AGT) system being developed by the Department of Science and Technology and piloted in the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines a few years back. Ironically, the setting of the workshop was in Tagaytay, known for its cooler climate and lovely nature views, but notorious for its lack of public transport options.

The project is not about financing more electric vehicles or expanding AGT systems, but putting in place the proper policies, encouraging private sector investment, developing the capacity of government institutions, and increasing awareness so that there will be a rapid uptake of LCTs in cities and towns, whether headed by the private or the public sector.

The RE-Charge fleet

The RE-Charge fleet remains to be one of the few electric vehicle fleets in the country

It was good to see familiar faces from UP’s National Center for Transportation Studies, DOTC, and DOST, among others, in the workshop. However, seeing the same faces whenever I attend workshops tells me that the low carbon transport network has either not expanded its reach far enough, or there is a need to work harder to bring more participants into the conversation. Nevertheless, the two-day workshop was barely enough for the lively discussions that ensued.

I shared iCSC’s experience and challenges in getting our ejeepneys registered as well as getting the franchise to operate as a public utility fleet, and working with different organizations and government agencies since we launched the ejeepneys in 2007. We compiled all the challenges of LCT implementation into a “problem tree”, which shall be the source of plans of actions, thus turning it into an “objective tree”. One glaring reflection point “grew” from the problem tree: that maybe Low Carbon Transport is simply not a priority of the government. Our challenge was therefore to provide sufficient input to the government agencies so that these would hopefully provide enough reason to push for national transport policies that prioritize low carbon vehicle systems.

The problems hanging from our problem trees may have weighed down our spirits a bit. But, hearing news such as a target to put 150 more hybrid buses on the road by the year 2016 is a sign that there are those who are willing to take the risks early on. There is good news there.#

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