Sentimentality may get you nowhere, literally. True, the iconic, ubiquitous jeepney has been the main intra-city/intra-town form of transport in the Philippines for as long as any living resident can remember.
But time and transport technology has caught up with the old jeepney, which has gained quite the notoriety for its atrocious emissions, reckless drivers, and unsafe assemblies. The so-called “king of the road” may have just become eye-candy on wheels, with the more gaudily decorated ones fit only for the mandatory photo-op with foreign tourists who wouldn’t dare imagine their own governments populating their streets with such outdated contraptions.
The Duterte government has been hellbent lately on phasing out the hundreds of thousands of jeepneys currently plying the nation’s streets. Progress always entails change, of course, and the radical upgrade or replacement of the jeepney is an inevitability. But there are two significant forces working against the phaseout. One is the group of jeepney operators and drivers who, for one reason or another, are strongly opposed to change. Another would be the immense vacuum that would be created in the country’s public transport sector once the phaseout gets underway. These two factors are inherently interrelated, and solving one may also lead to resolving the other. The question is, how to begin the process of change in the country’s complex public transport sector vis-à-vis the jeepney.
The money’s there for the taking. The Department of Transportation’s PUV-modernization program has been earmarked with P2.2 billion worth of subsidies. But is that enough to convince the jeepney operators and drivers to change their rides?
One Japan-based truck maker is hoping to help them make up their minds. On October 12 and 13 (that’s today and tomorrow), Isuzu Philippines Corp (IPC) displays three of its latest prototype entries to the government’s PUV (public utility vehicle) Modernization Program.
The Isuzu prototypes are on display at the 1st Philippine Auto Parts Expo at the Philippine Trade Training Center in Pasay City. The expo is jointly organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Parts Makers Association Inc (PPMA).
First in the Isuzu lineup is its Class II-type jeepney substitute mounted on the existing Isuzu NHR55 platform, with a customized body co-designed and manufactured by Almazora Motors Corp. Running on NHR’s current 4JB1-TC engine, this prototype can deliver maximum power of 91 PS and torque of 196 Nm.
The Isuzu-Almazora Class II prototype body maintains the current side-facing seating and standing orientation, which can carry up to 30 passengers and is fully air-conditioned.
Isuzu’s next entry also falls under the Class II jeepney category, and is a collaboration with Centro Manufacturing Corp. The Isuzu-Centro Class II prototype, however, carries the yet-to-be launched Isuzu QKR77 powered by a 4JH1-TC engine that is already Euro4 compliant, supporting the government’s move to lessen exhaust emissions. Likewise, the design maintains a side-facing and standing type cabin, which can also carry up to 30 passengers and has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 4,490 kg, ideal for mass transport.
With an overall length of 6.3 meters and overall width of 1.7 meters, the Isuzu-Centro Class II prototype is designed to provide wider seating space and ample passenger leg room even when fully loaded. Designed as a non-aircon type modern jeepney, Isuzu and Centro fitted the vehicle with panoramic-type side windows to ensure better interior airflow, adding to passenger comfort.
Isuzu’s third display is for the Class III category, with a Centro-designed body ideal for longer routes within or outside urban centers. Built on the same Isuzu QKR77 platform, the Class III prototype offers a 23-seating capacity, all front-facing for a more comfortable ride on longer trips. Although what would be displayed is a non-aircon type vehicle, this body type is ready to be fitted with an air-conditioning system.
“These prototypes are a result of our thorough design development with the two leading body manufacturers in the country—Centro and Almazora. Our prototypes conform with the initial standards released by the DTI, and we are happy with the outcome; but still we need to conduct a series of tests to ensure passenger comfort,” said IPC President Hajime Koso.
“It just shows that our company is ready for the shift towards the modernization of the country’s public transport system. We hope that with the help of the different government agencies involved in the project, we will be able to provide a more comfortable, safer and environment friendly transport alternative,” Koso added.
As of the moment, however, no specific price points have been disclosed by Isuzu nor the DOTr. The prices of these jeepney replacements, and the extent to which financial institutions will help in making these acquisitions easier on the pockets of the jeepney operators and drivers, will prove to be crucial to the success—or failure—of the modernization program.