[MANILA] The Philippines has launched the largest electric public transport fleet in South-East Asia with its first commercial franchise of electric jeepneys (e-jeepneys) -- an environmentally friendly version of a popular vehicle originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II.
The move, which took place at the beginning of this month (1 March), is being seen as helping to pave the way for all countries in the region to accelerate their shift to more eco-friendly mass transport systems.
Other countries in South-East Asia are already working on their own versions of public transport system that will reducecarbon emissions and improve air quality.
Singapore, for example, is testing a hydrogen-powered public bus, and is working with German researchers to develop electric taxis, with the initial prototype expected in 2014. And Thailand is looking into electric tuk tuks to replace the motor-powered three wheeled vehicles that roam Bangkok's busy streets.
Diesel-powered jeepneys are the most popular public transportation in the Philippines, and have become a symbol of Philippine culture. But, with some 50,000 jeepneys -- many of them widely seen as 'smoke-belchers' -- on the streets of Metro Manila alone, studies have tagged them as one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the country.
Now, under a franchise to operate and cover a particular route, a 21-vehicle fleet of e-jeepneys is plying the streets of a section of the business district of Makati City, the country's main financial district, charging the same fare as traditional jeepneys.