I love this ride

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - HotSpot - - EDITORIAL - By Kom­fie Manalo

A look in­side the mod­ern jeeps

The first time I stepped in­side this much-pub­li­cized mod­ern jeep­ney, I was quickly amazed by the spa­cious­ness of the ve­hi­cle that gives you a more com­fort­able vibe. I no­ticed too the small elec­tric fans for in­di­vid­ual pas­sen­gers and of course the USB ports on each seat.

An­other thing I no­ticed was the ab­sence of the usual black smoke emis­sion and the noise from the tra­di­tional diesel-pow­ered jeep­ney. Of course, Mer­alco’s eSakay jeeps run on elec­tric­ity with no ex­haust pipe and no en­gine but only on a bat­tery-pow­ered mo­tor mak­ing the ride smooth and quiet.

Ro­ge­lio Na­tor, one of the driv­ers em­ployed by Mer­alco’s eSakay, said pas­sen­gers en­joy rid­ing their ver­sion of the jeep­ney not only for the com­fort it pro­vides, but also its safety fea­tures.

“There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween rid­ing jeep­neys that com­ply with the PUV (pub­lic util­ity ve­hi­cle) Mod­ern­iza­tion Pro­gram and

Even the driv­ers here wear uni­forms and we have to wear shoes, but more im­por­tantly, there are ded­i­cated me­chan­ics and per­son­nel to main­tain all our units, so we don’t have to dirty our hands or even our­selves. We can al­ways present our­selves to our pas­sen­gers well-groomed and not smelling.

tak­ing the tra­di­tional jeep­neys. Our ve­hi­cles are cleaner be­cause we don’t emit any pol­lu­tion, we see to it our ve­hi­cles are well-kept and spot­less,” he said.

“Even the driv­ers here wear uni­forms and we have to wear shoes, but more im­por­tantly, there are ded­i­cated me­chan­ics and per­son­nel to main­tain all our units, so we don’t have to dirty our hands or even our­selves. We can al­ways present our­selves to our pas­sen­gers well­groomed and not smelling,” Na­tor con­tin­ued.

Com­muters of the eSakay also share my ob­ser­va­tion about the com­fort in tak­ing the new “mini-buses.”

Ac­cord­ing to Na­tor, his pas­sen­gers ap­pre­ci­ate the in­di­vid­ual elec­tric fans in­stalled over­head each seat. “They feel like they are rid­ing an ‘air-con­di­tioned’ PUV. So, they don’t sweat at all.

“And of course, the free wi-fi con­nec­tion is a big hit es­pe­cially dur­ing rush hours when traf­fic is heavy. The pas­sen­gers can fid­dle with their smart­phones to browse Face­book, e-mail or chat with a friend. This way, they can stay con­nected with their friends, fam­i­lies or even work,” he added.

Ul­tra mod­ern jeep­ney

Mer­alco’s eSakay ini­tia­tive is in re­sponse to the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s PUV Mod­ern­iza­tion Pro­gram launched in 2017 and spear­headed by Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Arthur Tu­gade. The PUV pro­gram aims to phase out old and di­lap­i­dated buses, jeep­neys and other PUV that are at least 15 years old and re­place them with more com­fort­able, safe and en­vi­ron­ment-friendly al­ter­na­tives.

Tu­gade’s vi­sion is to al­low these new ve­hi­cles to com­ply with both in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal stan­dards for ve­hi­cle safety con­di­tions.

The Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion set these guide­lines to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram:

• The new jeep­ney must be com­pli­ant with safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards.

• It must be equipped with a Euro 4 emis­sion-com­pli­ant en­gine or an elec­tric mo­tor.

• It should have its en­try and exit door on the right side while the rear exit serves as an emer­gency exit only.

• It should be equipped with a speed lim­iter, a dash cam, a GPS mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem and a closed­cir­cuit TV (CCTV) sys­tem.

In my pre­vi­ous in­ter­view with then Mer­alco se­nior vice pres­i­dent Al­fredo Panlilio, he stated that the de­ci­sion to en­gage in elec­tronic ve­hi­cles through the eSakay pro­gram is in re­sponse to the emer­gence of dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies that are chang­ing the way peo­ple live.

The com­pany, he said, re­al­ized that its once core busi­ness was pro­vid­ing elec­tric trans­port sys­tem through the tran­via rail­way sys­tem when Mer­alco was still called the Manila Elec­tric Rail­road and Light Com­pany.

“We’ve been want­ing to be a leader in the in­dus­try way back 2011 and 2012 time­frame,” Panlilio said. “In fact, as early as that time, we started pro­to­typ­ing charg­ing sta­tions. It would add to our en­ergy sales sim­ply be­cause it will give cleaner power in­stead of that gen­er­ated by fos­sil fuel. So it’s re­ally a fu­ture busi­ness. We might have brought in Tesla into the coun­try in 2013 [when a Tesla] car was used by MVP (Manny Pangili­nan).”

Dis­ci­plined driv­ers

One of the big­gest so­cial im­pacts of the PUV Mod­ern­iza­tion is it en­cour­ages driv­ers to be more re­spect­ful of fel­low mo­torists and more com­pli­ant with traf­fic rules.

“We are not bound by the tra­di­tional ‘bound­ary sys­tem’ prac­ticed by tra­di­tional jeep­ney op­er­a­tors,” Na­tor ex­plained. “We re­ceive a reg­u­lar salary per day, with all the ben­e­fits re­quired by law like SSS (So­cial Se­cu­rity Sys­tem), PhilHealth, etc. We also pay our taxes.”

Be­cause driv­ers of these mod­ern ve­hi­cles re­ceive reg­u­lar pay, there is no need for them to be sta­tion­ary on the street to wait for pas­sen­gers or pick up or drop off pas­sen­gers as they please just to get more pas­sen­gers to earn more.

This old sys­tem, Na­tor added, is one of the ma­jor rea­sons streets get clogged be­cause of undis­ci­plined driv­ers.

“We are very pro­fes­sional here,” he said. In­deed, Na­tor sounded highly pro­fes­sional dur­ing the in­ter­view and through­out the en­tire ride. The in­tro­duc­tion of bet­ter tech­nol­ogy for the PUV would en­cour­age the pub­lic to take the jeep­neys more of­ten in­stead of driv­ing their own car to move around.

Af­ter all, with the com­fort­able ride and pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion of pub­lic util­ity driv­ers, the ride will not only be more pleas­ant, but faster as well.

It adds to our en­ergy sales sim­ply be­cause it will give cleaner power over fos­sil fuel. So it’s re­ally a fu­ture busi­ness.

AL PADILLA

THE mod­ern elec­tric ve­hi­cles are ex­pected to dom­i­nate Philip­pine roads in the fu­ture.

RAVELO show­ing off the eSakay ride.

AL PADILLA

THE in­te­rior of­fers a com­fort­able travel ex­pe­ri­ence.

FULLY charged ejeep­neys will run up to eight hours.

AL PADILLA

PAS­SEN­GERS pay their fare upon board­ing.

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