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Govt allows electric jeepneys to ply major Philippine highways

MANILA, Philippines - The Electric Jeepney or E-Jeepney, a cleaner, safer, renewable alternative to fossil-fuel based public transport, has finally been given the green light to ply the country's public roads. GRIPP (Green Renewable Independent Power Producer) and Greenpeace on Monday welcomed the go-signal from the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) finally classifying the said vehicle and allowing it to operate in major thoroughfares. The E-Jeepneys were launched last July 4, 2007 in Makati City, as part of a larger initiative called the Climate Friendly Cities Project. The project demonstrates how cities can help mitigate the problem of climate change through implementing measures that would avoid the use of climate change-inducing fossil fuels. Through the project, a fleet of electric-powered jeepneys will derive energy from biodegradable wastes from the city’s wet markets, food establishments and households, thereby helping mitigate climate change even as it addresses urban problems such as air pollution and solid waste, while providing enhanced incomes to the jeepney drivers. The project is sponsored in part by the Dutch Doen Foundation and is currently supported by Makati, Baguio and Puerto Princesa Cities. The go-signal comes after ten months of waiting and several delays at the DOTC Planning and Transport Division. The guidelines for the E-Jeepneys were signed and issued last April 30, 2008. The guidelines classify the E-Jeepney as “a utility vehicle for private or public use, for non-commercial or commercial purposes or be hired to transport goods and passengers, subject to all applicable rules and regulations governing public transport vehicles." “GRIPP welcomes this much anticipated set of guidelines for electric vehicles as a major milestone in our implementation of the Climate Friendly Cities Project, especially at a time when skyrocketing diesel and fossil fuel prices have considerably decreased the income of jeepney drivers. The DOTC’s go-signal also means that we can now proceed with scaling up E-Jeepney fleets in various host cities, giving the Philippines the opportunity to leapfrog into climate-friendly sustainable transport," said GRIPP Chairperson Athena Ballesteros. According to GRIPP, the next steps after the release of the guidelines are: 1) publication of the guidelines in major newspapers; 2) drafting and approval of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR); 3) Land Transportation Office (LTO) registration; and 4) LTFRB for granting of franchises. Project proponents are hopeful that the registration and issuance of plates for the E-Jeepneys will be fast-tracked. LTO Chief Alberto Suansing has committed his full support to GRIPP and will work with the GRIPP and its partners for the speedy registration of the units of the pilot fleet launched last year in Makati City and those about to be ordered by other cities now involved in the project. Support on a national level, however, is crucial to ensure the successful replication of the project, as well as other renewable energy (RE) initiatives. GRIPP and Greenpeace called on the national government to help reduce tariffs for pioneering RE technologies including those for sustainable public transport, and to provide technical, financial and institutional support for renewable energy-based power plants such as those that will power the E-Jeepneys. Both organizations emphasized that the urgent need for concerted global action to stop climate change means that there should be no delay for the right policies to be in place. “While Greenpeace welcomes this new set of guidelines, we lament the fact that it took the DOTC ten months to take action. This reflects the Philippine government's current response to climate change—slow and totally inadequate. Our vulnerability to the impacts of this disaster means we need to implement solutions now. Aside from supporting initiatives such as the Climate Friendly Cities Project, the national government should institute large-scale climate change solutions such as phasing out coal-fired power plants, and the immediate passage of a strong renewable energy legislation," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner Jasper Inventor. - GMANews.TV