Cebu goes eco friendly on mass transit and enviromental vehicles

Tabontabon is a municipality in the Philippines, about 30 kilometres south of Tacloban City in the province of Leyte. It has around 10,000 inhabitants and around 90% of them are financially reliant on rice farming. Most transportation in the area goes via Habel-habel which is motorcycles being used for passenger use. Mayor Rustico Balderian decided it is about time the town went green with its transportation and no doubt a vehicle similar to that in the Photo is what the new petition in Cebu are looking for. As Mayor Balderian is already implementing some of the changes that are being seeked in Cebu which is why I am leading with an existing system before following on to what is being asked in Cebu City.

 Rustico Balderian, municipal mayor of Tabontabon, decided to design and build a green vehicle to become the main mode of transport. He felt the vehicle should meet the following 4 criteria: low-cost, fuel-efficient, safe, and environmentally-friendly, in order to compete with the habal-habal. He developed ECO 1, a bamboo bus which runs 100% on coco-biodiesel, is for 90% made of bamboo, an indigenous and renewable material, which is locally grown. The vehicles are built by local people. Two vehicles have been developed, the ECO1 can seat 20 people including the driver. It uses just one gallon of biodiesel fuel per 8 hours. The vehicle has a panelling in banig, the Filipino woven mat. The ECO2 is made of bamboo, seats 8 passengers, and has a stereo with sound system. It also consumes one gallon of biodiesel fuel for 8 hours, according to the manufacturer.

So now that its been shown as possible in some small way in Tabontabon it will be interesting to see if anything can be done in Cebu City as its a much more complex problem due to congestion levels, narrow street ways and badly needing a mass transit system the following is being seeked already wider sidewalks more bicycle lanes and mass transit by local ecology groups in Cebu. There has been a reported 1,000 signatures put to a petition urging Cebu city officials to enact environmental legislation for a green transport system.

Ecology lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. said “they want the city officials to allocate half of the city’s roads for pedestrians through wider sidewalks and more bicycle lanes.”

He also said they are also pushing for a non-motorized mass transport system and “We need to have a paradigm shift. A city is made for the people and not for cars so why do we fill our cities with cars,”

Opasa has stated he will submit the petition to Mayor Michael Rama of Cebu city. The petition is based on sections 120 to 127 of the local government code in which registered voters may directly propose legislation amendments. Once submitted the local government will have 30 days to respond or act upon the petition.Otherwise, Oposa said the proponents through their representatives may ask the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct a referendum. Oposa also made clear that he hopes it would never reach that point “We will try not to be confrontational as possible,” he said.

He hopes officials will see his point which is that the mass transport system must be based on the principle that “those who have less in wheels must have more in roads.” Oposa also went on to say they propose that the city’s transport system must be safe, convenient, inexpensive, collective, efficient, non-congestive, non-pollutive, and healthful.“The transportation systems must have a preferential bias for non-motorized transport systems that do not use fossil fuels and maximize the use of available manpower,” the petition stated

While lauding the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, Oposa said the bus should be installed on rails. He also proposed that the sides of the bus be made out of amakan (criss-crossed bamboo slits). He reasoned that if the bus is lighter, there will be less energy consumed and using amakan won’t compromise safety because the bus is rail-based. Oposa said they already consulted some engineers to design such a ride but it needs further study.

When reading and writing this article it becomes obvious too much is being asked for in one chunk. The problem politically with that is it more than likely going to be thrown out as too expensive and unworkable. When I generally look at these things I wonder how I would go about dealing with the problem and one of the things that Cebu does have is an excessive number of people on Jeepney’s who are generally able to take mass transit if it was available and easy to remove most of the Jeepney’s from the City. A metro shuttle service tied to a bus terminal exterior to the city where both larger buses and Jeepneys can drop off and collect passengers which in turn is moving most of the load from the central city to its outskirts. But this also means that most of the buses with its final destination in the City wouldn’t need to congest up the streets as the last part of the journey would be handled by an efficient Metro rail system. Going for a full underground system I don’t think Cebu can afford or afford its required maintenance on an annual basis. Something similar to a tram system would be a better alternative.

Going green with vehicles is also an interesting concept as the technology is already available in many cases. The problem yet again is cost as well as the Philippines strict import rules and fees that would hinder this change unless the country actually openly supported the transition and gave Green vehicles financial breaks for importing.

What ever happens in Cebu I can guarantee there will be a lot of contesting purely down to the fact the city is over crowded and over populated. Redevelopment would have to run hand in hand to do it efficiently and fairly.