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Demise of the Jeepney

Discussion in 'News from The Philippines' started by JohnAsh, Jul 30, 2013.

  1. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    "London has the red double-decker bus, New York the yellow taxi, and the Philippines has the Jeepney.

    The country's most popular means of public transport zipping by adds a flash of vibrancy in the often frustrating, gridlocked streets of metropolitan Manila.

    With names like Delilah and Rosa emblazoned across the front, each one is individually adorned with religious and nationalistic artwork - no two are identical.

    For Ed Sarao, head of Sarao Motors - one of the first makers of Jeepneys - the vehicle represents the multi-cultural history of the Philippines.

    "There is bit of Spanish, Mexican traits there; how they incorporate vivid colours, fiesta-like feelings. There is a little of the Americans because it evolved from the Jeep. There is a little Japan because of the Japanese engine. But it was built by Filipino hands," he says.

    But while it was once part of the Philippines' image and identity, the Jeepney has now become something of a dinosaur - and newer, more economical vehicles are starting to take its place.

    Jeepneys first hit the roads in the 1950s, refashioned from military vehicles left behind by US soldiers after World War II.

    Some entrepreneurial Filipinos took those US Jeeps and modified them, adding features to make them roadworthy, and creating a new form of mass transit.

    One of those entrepreneurs was Leonardo Sarao, who at the time drove a kalesa, or horse-drawn cart.

    "He saw the opportunity in having public transportation around Manila," says Ed, who still keeps his father's old kalesa in the workshop.

    Jeepneys can carry about 18 people - packed in shoulder-to-shoulder, with glassless windows for ventilation in the hot climate.

    Operated by owners who run franchises, for average Filipinos they are still the cheapest way to get around, costing about eight pesos (20 US cents; 12 pence) for a ride.

    At the height of their popularity, when Ed describes the factory floor as a bee hive buzzing with activity, Sarao Motors was asked by the tourism ministry to showcase its vehicles around the world.

    But the heyday came to an end shortly after the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98.

    Ed says Sarao Motors has never really recovered. It has gone from churning out 12-18 units a day to producing just 40 a year.

    Ed Sarao from Sarao Motors describes the ups and downs the company has faced
    The reason for the decline in the company's fortunes, and the fall of the Jeepney in general, is purely financial, says Jamie Leather, principal transport specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which is headquartered in Manila.

    He explains that Jeepneys are more expensive to operate and repair than other vehicles on the market because they don't have standardised parts that are readily available.

    Other vehicles may take fewer passengers, but are more profitable for operators and so some of them are opting to replace their Jeepneys, Mr Leather says.

    "Passengers also prefer air-conditioning that other vehicles provide - they see it as more comfortable," he adds.

    Modernise transport
    The other reason Jeepneys are now at odds with the future of transportation in the Philippines is the amount of carbon dioxide they emit from their diesel engines.

    The Philippines is struggling to combat air pollution - the ADB estimates that 5,000 people die from air pollution-related illnesses every year.

    So, in an effort to keep the nostalgia but not the fumes, one organisation is testing electric Jeepneys in the central business district of Makati, one of the cities that makes up metropolitan Manila.

  2. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    Looks like they are on the way out to be replaced by greener forms of transport.


    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  3. Methersgate

    Methersgate Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    Jeepneys are not at all easy to drive - manual gearbox and no power assist to the steering. The idea of the rear entry with two banks of seats on the other hand is quite well suited to heavy urban traffic
  4. Howerd

    Howerd Well-Known Member Trusted Member Lifetime Member

    Just replacing diesel engines with electric power doesn't mean the Jeepney will die. I am sure they will still have personalized names remain as colourful as ever.
  5. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    I agree. I forsee them, over time, being used in the touristy areas. Here we still have the steam train, victorian electric trams and horse drawn tram!
  6. Methersgate

    Methersgate Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    A problem with the electric jeepney is that the Philippines has the most expensive electricity in Asia, whilst diesel is 42 pesos a litre.
  7. Markham

    Markham Guest

    That's just one of the problems and a significant one too seeing as Manila's electricity is one of the most expensive in the country.

    Love them or hate them, Jeepneys represent an important and affordable means of public transportation for the masses and can be maintained with little more than a hammer and a wrench. Many are not owned by transportation companies, rather by individual families who may own and operate one or two. In some cases, the route franchise can be worth as much as the Jeepney that operates it, with most franchises being non-exclusive. The current fare is 8 Pesos.

    Electric Jeepneys are limited in operational range which will probably mean that longer routes will have to be divided into shorter stages which will add to passenger inconvenience and also increase their daily expenditure. There will also need to be recharging stations liberally dotted all over the NCR and it's not clear who will be responsible for installing and operating these - added to which the electricity they supply will necessarily be more expensive to cover the installation and running costs plus a bit of profit. Those costs will, of course, mean that Jeepney fares would have to increase even more. There is no evidence to suppose that electric Jeepneys are any "greener" as fossil fuels are required to generate the electricity.

    There's another problem - Manila's roads flood: water and electricity can be a lethal combination and there's the real risk of Jeepneys being immobilised by flooded roads which not only will add to the city's congestion problems, the owners could face an expensive repair bill. Assuming they can get someone to tow it to a shop, of course. Diesel-powered Jeepneys are far less affected by floods.

    Environmentalists tend to see things only for their positive advantages - in this case, a reduction in pollution at street level - and they conveniently overlook the practicalities of implementing them.
  8. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    They claim it will be cheaper to run them on electricity. And more economical to run.

    "But its glory days may be coming to an end. Once as intrinsic to the Philippines’ national image and identity as the red double decker bus is to London or the yellow cab to New York, the Jeepney is gradually being superseded by newer, more economical vehicles."

    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  9. Markham

    Markham Guest

    I think we're talking at cross purposes here. The article is not about the replacement of all diesel-engined Jeepneys but simply those with the iconic Willys Jeep shape with more modern, fuel-efficient vehicles such as these:

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The yellow one in the penultimate photo is based on a Suzuki Multicab with a 3 cylinder 675cc petrol engine and can carry 7 passengers. The green Jeepney in the last picture is also a Multicab but has been stretched to accommodate an additional two passengers.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2013
  10. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    Is it the Last Stop for the Jeepney?

    "The Jeepney was once called the "Undisputed King of the Road". . .
    . . . but no longer. Indeed, once it was the symbol of Filipino creativity, innovativeness and ingenuity. Today, it is a tarnished icon, its survival threatented from many fronts – bullied by government regulations, victimized by rising costs and the competition of cheaper alternatives.

    Surely, it has come a long way from being the World War ll Willys jeep surplus that provided an early postwar topless form of share-taxi transportation, soon enough acquiring a roof and stretching the back to accommodate more passengers, taking on colors and accessories. Even as the supply of Willy jeeps and alternative mother-vehicles became exhausted, it continued to spawn an industry and commerce of build-from-scratch jeepney production, providing the needs of the populace for an affordable means of transportation and all imaginable hauling needs. It was, indeed, the workhorse of Philippine transportation, and deservedly for decades, it was the "Undisputed King of the Road."

    To say that it continues to be the symbol of the Filipino's creativity, innovativeness and ingenuity is arguable. The jeepney has remained in its angular and boxy construction, gas-guzzling and weighty with its undefined20 plus sheets of 15- to 18-gauge stainless steel or galvanized sheets, its guts usually surplus Japanese diesel engines and chassis, its aerodynamics eaten up by an unyielding metal shell and its profusion of accessories, mirrors, grills and guards."

    In an age of incredible automotive innovations for fuel efficiency, aerodynamics, safety and creature comforts, the jeepney has remained an immutable, uncomfortable, gas-guzzling and polluting anachronism, severely lacking in safety features and unadaptable to universal safety and seat-belt regulations. Its boxed interior is designed to cram up as many passengers as possible. Check out the spare tire, easily inspected on the driver-side, and the threads are usually so worn out, dental floss in the groove would stick out. Some are a thumb-tack away from a blown-tire. It's the nature of this beast–surplus and recycled parts,

    Read more....

    This beast is a bit of a dinosaur, albeit a lovable one. It's time has been and gone. It's an overstayer. It needs to retire gracefully and make way for the future. People don't like change, usually the elderly, but eventually the iconic jeepney will be no more than a tourist attraction that tourists will be prepared to pay all the more for. In the interim they will remain in the more rural areas and outposts, dissapearing there too in the fullness of time. Perhaps, as they fall out of service, someone enterprising will snap them up and export them to a third world country or maybe run them as holiday homes or similar.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  11. Markham

    Markham Guest

    So it's okay for these fuel-inefficient, smoke-belching dinosaurs to ply the roads of Cambodia, Laos or Bangladesh but not the Philippines, is it? I detect a bit of projected nimby-ism in your comments.
  12. Januarius

    Januarius Member

    The Jeepney has been an invaluable transportation resource in the Phils for as long as I can remember..
    I used them every day in the 1980`s for 3 plus years.. Without them the people(average commuter) would have been completely stuffed and I`m pretty sure that the same could have been said since the end of WW11.
    Most intelligent people here have known for at least the last 20 years that Jeeps were not the ideal way of transporting people to work in the future.. Ordinary working class Filipino`s don't care how they get to work..As long as they can get there and cheaply then "Pwede na".."Its OK".
    Since the "Carbon is killing the world" commission hit the scene with visions of melting icebergs shocking the world population with tales of woe,,the long term future of the affordable ride to work is now limited..
    They may well try to find a universal acceptable electric copy etc etc but inevitably the Jeepney of old is a future dinosaur.. The last of its kind found only in local Junk shops to be sent to China to be scrapped.. It wont be long before they are gone forever.
    No lasting remnant will be found in Museums or even private collections... Gone for good!!
    For me personally it makes no real difference where they go.. They are gone and will only really remain in the memory of past generations.. Some fond memories,others with memories of disgust!!

    The main problem here as I see it is that the LTO is corrupt.. It is very easy to have a smoke test here done successfully, even if the vehicle is a diesel smoking dog..

    The Jeep of old was only supposed to be a temporary supplement to the Philippines transport system after the war years..
    Lets face it.. It was a huge recycling effort back in the days after the war..
    Unfortunately the Jeep became a Filipino Icon... Perhaps one that will be a little hard to discard for a little while longer.
    Of course...Time will tell!!
  13. Methersgate

    Methersgate Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    At the back of the issue is a bigger one - the Spanish-era left over attitudes and the Spanish practices of the Bureau of Customs, allied to the 1940-s style high tariffs.

    Part of the problem is that the Bureau of Customs is still full of Spanish-type practices, attitudes, regulations and operating procedures. There is WAY too much "red tape" in the Customs procedures - only an expert can understand them and navigate through them. It IS possible to import and export correctly but because the procedures and regulations are so complex there is a huge temptation for BOC employees to "make life difficult" for the importer and exporter so that they are "rewarded" for "clearing a path".

    By way of example, or in fact two examples, both from Subic, where I am today.

    First example:

    I know a man who runs a boat-building business here - the 10 metre RIB for the Navy that I posted on another thread is one of his - he is absolutely not corrupt nor are his staff. He has to import specialized equipment and materials and he says that he has no difficulty provided that everything is made out correctly and provided he imports everything needed for a job in a single batch (which of course ties up working capital) The BOC does not stop him running his business and he has no complaints but I bet his life could be made easier and his business could expand and export more if the Customs regulations were less complex,
    Second example:

    There is quite a big business in importing secondhand construction machinery from Japan. This is exported and imported as "scrap", so the Customs duties are very small.The equipment is then auctioned off for further use. This is in my opinion wrong - the Customs duties should be charged on the value as secondhand equipment, and at the same time the high tariffs designed to protect the "Filipino construction equipment industry" (which does not exist) are circumvented. Same goes for buses, ships, etc. The domestic industry that the high tariffs are meant to be protecting doesn't exist because the tariffs are collusively circumvented,

    what can be done about this?

    I think that the complexity of the regulations is what breeds the petty corruption which leads to big scale corruption. To deal with the corruption by just changing the people won't work, because it is the system that causes the corruption so new people will become corrupted.

    Accordingly, why not simplify the tariffs and the Customs regulations? They can actually be made very simple indeed. Hong Kong is the outstanding example - Hong Kong has almost no Customs tariffs at all. And Hong Kong has a very "clean" Customs service. Most of the tariffs are based on the out dated ideas of the 1940s and 1950s, when the "big idea" for developing nations was to "encourage native industry to develop" by imposing high tariffs on imports so that imports would be substituted by local manufactures.

    What has actually happened? Nothing of the sort!

    The jeepney still exists because the domestic vehicle industry never got beyond this 1940s technology using Japanese secondhand diesel engines.

    Far from being a testament to Filipino ingenuity, the jeepney is a symbol of national shame. A nation, once the second richest and best educated in Asia, which is reduced to exporting its people.
  14. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    Its not often that I find myself agreeing with Januarius, but on this occasion definitely so. Though I do hope that some are kept back for nostalgic purposes and for the tourists. Suitably serviced and maintained of course.
  15. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    OK. Since you put it that way, then scrap them.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2013
  16. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    A damning statement indeed.
  17. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    "It is devoid of passenger comforts. Depending on length, it can load from 18 to 30 passengers, the drivers usually waiting for a full load before going his way. And on a full load, it's a can of sardines, undefinedshoulder-unto-armpit, back-unto-chest, shoulder-unto-shoulder, elbow-unto-hipbone, unavoidable thigh-on-thigh intimacy, butts accommodating forward to the seat's edge as another squooshes back to mold into tight spaces. It's a disparate mix of the 'masa' forced into sharing a humid olfactory and respiratory environ teeming with the composite scents of body odors, fading perfumery, and the more than occasional passenger reeking of alcohol, his head drifting into a slumberous rest on a fellow passenger's shoulder. The open windows welcome the miasma of urban ground ozone pollution and freshly brewed and belched smoky black clouds of diesel fumes spewed out by buses and jeepneys alike. For the masa, it is a daily sufferance in a cramped space that tests the limits of jeepney etiquette. And for some men, "chancing" and voyeur opportunities, eyeballs rolling and roving for beaver shots and cleavage gazing, while women desperately cover their necklines and tug down their hemlines."

    In terms of drawbacks of the Jeepney, a line from an earlier link that my wife identifies with....
  18. Markham

    Markham Guest

    Why bother? Tourists, by and large, don't ride them anyway.

    Ah, well there's the rub: they're not and they wouldn't be. Generally speaking, Filipinos regard vehicle servicing as being an unnecessary expense - "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies here in Spades. So no oil or filter changes, tyres so bald they're shiny and the whole contraption held together with tack welds and baling wire.

    As I said in an earlier reply, many Jeepneys are owned and operated by ordinary families - often paid for by OFW relatives as a means of providing their families with a source of income. To get them to upgrade their fleet would be rather difficult as the newer models are somewhat more expensive that those they would replace - for which any loans may not yet have been repaid. A seven passenger Multicab Jeepney costs around 300,000 Pesos and its route franchise fee is the same as for a larger capacity vehicle although its operating costs are less. One based on an Isuzu or Mitsubishi truck costs over three times as much.

    I looked into this last year as a means of providing my family with some income. There is a small company in Cagayan De Oro which makes an all-aluminium bodied Jeepney in traditional styling (ie: the familiar Willys Jeepney shape) to order. With a reconditioned Mitusbishi 2.4 litre engine and a chassis that will seat 31 passengers, one will set you back a cool 1.5 million Pesos - but it will have 5 brand new tyres, a new oil filter and fresh oil in the sump! On top of that, you need to pay the route franchise fee and the only available ones here at the time was basically between the airport and Ulas; a busy route that passes four Malls and goes through the central business district; that route has 4 fare "zones" so an end-to-end trip nets 32 Pesos. That franchise would have cost me 150,000 Pesos per vehicle for five years. In addition to fuel and wages for the driver and conductor, operators have to pay the barkers who man the busy stops and direct passengers to board your vehicle - he who pays more, gets more passengers. I calculated that "my" Jeepney(s) would need to be on the road 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to cover their overall costs - and on that route, there would be passengers wishing to travel throughout that period. No time then for preventative maintenance! And very little profit to boot.
  19. JohnAsh

    JohnAsh Well-Known Member Lifetime Member

    Once they are removed from general circulation and become 2 a peso, it would be worth snapping a few up as they would be prime for tourism with the potential to charge more than the regular everyday current rates. I know it isn't the same but here that exact thing happens with horse drawn trams, victorian electric trams and steam trainsas they hey have never been taken out of service and are used pretty much purely by tourists as they operate during the summer only.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2013
  20. Dave_E

    Dave_E Well-Known Member Trusted Member

    Jeepneys, and the minivans are not well designed for someone of my stature and build.

    Even after a difficult entrance and a semi crawl to an available seat, my knees always stick out far more than those of any other passenger.

    I remember one difficult entry into a particularly low jeepney, when I was leant over low whilst climbing in, baseball cap in hand, and my head made bloody contact with a rough ended metal bolt sticking out of the roof of the jeepney.

    Last edited: Aug 3, 2013

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