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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Electric vehicle revolution in the Philippines

It started with the deployment of the first electric jeepneys and tricycles about 5 years ago. Today, electric vehicles are the rage in the Philippines with public transport being the main application of the e-vehicles. Makati already has 3 operational e-jeepney routes including the first e-vehicles to be registered and the first franchise for public transport. E-trikes have been operating in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig as well as in limited numbers in Puerto Princesa, Surigao and Boracay. During the 2nd Electric Vehicle Summit held last May 24-25, 2012 at the Meralco grounds, models of various electric vehicles for private and public transport use were on display for people to inspect and appreciate. These included cars, motorcycles, tricycles, jeepneys and a bus. Special mention goes to the Segway booth and its clone, which featured more personalized modes that are not really in the same category as most of the e-vehicles on display.

Mitsubishi’s entry in the local market is via the MiEV, a unit of which was donated to the Department of Energy (DOE)

The REVAi is a small car produced by an Indian company. The logo on the car is of the leading battery company in the country.

A locally assembled electric tricycle that is now popular in tourist areas like resorts.

The 4-wheeled e-vehicle dubbed as the E-quad that is locally assembled.

Variants of 3- and 4-wheeled e-vehicles including one (visible on the left) that is designed as a pick-up or delivery vehicle. All are made by local companies.

Electric motorcycles with one having a sidecar, which is the same form of the traditional tricycles that are the dominant public transport mode in local roads, many small cities and rural areas in the country.

The electric jeepney that is also locally assembled with the motor and controller the only major components that are imported. I think this model is the latest one and has a more powerful motor that allows the vehicle to negotiate steeper slopes. Other models are currently operating in Makati City (CBD) and as shuttles in shopping mall complexes and industrial areas.

Another e-trike with form similar to the Thai tuktuks and another, a 4-wheeler, made to look like the popular Hummer vehicles.

Electric scooters on display outside the summit venue

The electric bus imported by a company affiliated with Victory Liner, one of the largest provincial bus companies in the Philippines was a popular attraction during the summit.

There are still many issues pertaining to the deployment or operations of e-vehicles in the Philippines. Among the more important ones involve costs and the need for infrastructure such as charging stations to support e-vehicles. Unlike the experiences in other countries, especially in Europe, the e-vehicle initiatives in the Philippines are mainly for public transport rather than for private use. In fact, the DOE’s E-trike project together with the ADB looks to the deployment of 100,000 e-trikes to replace traditional tricycles around the country. This seems to be a small initiative considering Metro Manila alone has about 250,000 legally operating tricycles (there are quite many illegally operating units) and an estimated more than 1.5 million legal units around the country. But such initiatives if carried out and evaluated scientifically, systematically and objectively will surely go a long way to addressing transport problems in this country. The Makati e-jeepneys already provide a good model for replication elsewhere and soon, more studies will be underway to evaluate such vehicles in comparison with the traditional jeepneys and the emerging Auto-LPG variant. With an impending law that will provide incentives for electric, hybrid and other alternative-powered vehicles, e-vehicles will be here to stay and perhaps effect a transformation of Philippine transport.

Romulo Highway: San Clemente – Lingayen

Romulo Highway  originates from Tarlac City and passes through the towns of Sta. Ignacia, Camiling and San Clemente in Tarlac, and then the towns of Mangatarem, Aguilar, Bugallon and in Pangasinan. It ends at Lingayen, Pangasinan, in essence connecting the capitols of two major provinces in Central Luzon (Region 3/Tarlac) and the Ilocos (Region 1/Pangasinan).

Solar dryers – a common sight along Philippine highways is palay spread out along the shoulders to dry naturally under the sun

Good condition – pavements along sections of the Romulo Highway between San Clemente and Lingayen are generally well-maintained

Approach to intersection – the island is part of the channelization at the junction to physically separate vehicles approaching the junction.

Channelization – the islands along with directional signs help guide motorists at the junction.

Approaching a curve – this section can be a little tricky with a climb towards a horizontal curve.

Sharp curve – the curve is sharp enough to necessitate the installation of chevrons. This is combined with a climb or descent.

Reverse – it turns out that this section is actually a reverse curve, which increases the complexity of the section for drivers and riders.

Transition to a bridge – the reverse curve leads travelers to the Bugallon Bridge across the Agno River (direction towards Lingayen). Note the 20-ton limit of the bridge indicating that it is a relatively new bridge applying the DPWH standards for load limits.

Bugallon Bridge – is typical concrete bridge structure without an arch. Barriers are concrete and should be able to withstand collisions with most type of vehicles.

Agno River – is part of one of the larger river systems in Luzon Island and the country. The river becomes the Tarlac River when it branches out to Tarlac Province.

Bugallon Bridge – continuation of the long bridge terminating at an embankment that leads to another bridge towards Lingayen.

Padilla Bridge – is a steel truss bridge that is older than the Bugallon Bridge not only based on the form (many old bridges along national highways are steel truss bridges) but also on the load limit of 15 tons. The lane widths are also narrower than that of the Bugallon Bridge.

Padilla Bridge – is longer than the Bugallon Bridge as it crosses a wider branch of the Agno River system.

San Jose Bridge – viewed towards Lingayen from Bugallon is a relatively short steel truss bridge.

San Jose Bridge – view towards Bugallon from Lingayen is probably the same age as the Padilla Bridge. This bridge also has a 15-ton load limit.

Crossroads – vehicles turning to the left will be headed back towards Tarlac through Bugallon and Mangatarem. Going straight will take the traveler to the towns of Labrador, Sual and the general direction of Alaminos and Bolinao. The SUV on the left is headed for Lingayen and Dagupan.

Provincial boundary – a simple arch marks the boundary between Pangasinan and Tarlac. A little further downstream is another arch formalizing the boundary for the Municipality of San Clemente in Tarlac.

First town after the border – San Clemente is the first Tarlac town along the Romulo Highway upon crossing from Mangatarem, Pangasinan.

Olongapo-Castillejos Road: Castillejos

The name of the town Castillejos translates to “little castle.” Such names are part of our Spanish or Castillan legacy, being under Spain for more than 300 years until 1898. Following are photos showing segments of the Olongapo-Castillejos Road within the Municipality of Castillejos.

Double yellow – the twin solid lines emphasize the “no overtaking” rule for both directions of flow. Often disregarded in the Philippines, crossing over a double yellow will result in an apprehension and a ticket when driving in the US or Canada.

Single yellow on a straight section? – the single yellow line also means “no overtaking”

Obstacle course – among the things people should expect or anticipate when traveling along Philippine roads are various checkpoints that tend to slow down traffic. Some are operated by the PNP or the Army as part of their security measures. There are also those by the DENR to check the transport of restricted items such as logs, corals, exotic animals, etc. Also, there are those set-up to slow down traffic due to the presence of schools or pedestrian crossings like the one shown in the photo.

Turning – typical curve along the highway with the paved shoulders allowing for more maneuver space and improving sight distance

Town center – the poblacion or center of Castillejos is typical of most if not all old towns in the country with the Municipal Hall, Parish Church, local school and market are located together, and usually around or near a plaza.

Tricycles galore – three-wheeled taxis everywhere around the market area. The location of the market along the national highway means local traffic during market days will surely impeded traffic flow.

Marketplace traffic – it is common for travelers to encounter congestion due to the presence of a town’s market along national roads. There are enforcers like the one in green in the photo but they are usually helpless and reduced to managing for the maneuvers of parked vehicles or helping people to cross the road.

Opposite congestion – after passing the market area, we were relieved that we could proceed with much less congestion. Traffic along the other direction would have to contend with the congestion.

Usable shoulders – we were pleased to see that the shoulders were paved and in excellent condition. Such cases allow for walking and cycling off the carriageway such as the example shown by the cyclist on the right. Tricycles would also be able to pull to the side to avoid impeding general traffic. A concern though would always be parked vehicles on the shoulders.

Minimal encroachments – we were also pleased to observe that there were few properties encroaching upon the RROW along the highway, especially in populated or built-up areas like the one shown in the photo above. Such is not the case with many other towns where stores, shops and houses practically dominate shoulder space and even take up parts of the carriageway.

Free flow – these tricycles seem to be racing and could actually pick up speed even with passengers in the cab, probably due to the straight level road and the excellent pavement as shown in the photo. The shoulders are paved and should be sufficient for tricycles to use in order to not impede the flow of other vehicles.

Unimpeded flow – the photo above shows further proof of minimal encroachments on the RROW and especially along the shoulders, which are paved and usable.

Light traffic – traffic was quite light along the highway the time that we traveled.

Bridge ahead – the roadside barriers and the signs already visible from a distance inform motorists of the bridge ahead. We didn’t see any advance temporary signage for the construction site that would have been ideal to advise motorists about the work site.

Detour – the sign speaks for itself but seems to have been placed quite late into the approach to the bridge construction site.

Blocks – signs block the way towards the bridge under construction along the highway while a jeepney emerges from the temporary diversion road.

Sight distance? – while there is sufficient sight distance along the diversion road, there are cones along the middle of the road to discourage overtaking.

Gravel surface – the temporary diversion road was well-graded and wasn’t that rough unlike many other roads built for such purpose.

Steel structure – steel girders laid across the river and on top of the columns in the middle.

End support – a backhoe was working on material to reinforce the embankment at the northern approach to the bridge.

End of the road – the diversion road, that is, at the other end of the  bridge.

Boundary – arch symbolizing the gateway to the next town of San Marcelino.

Road and drainage works along A. Tuazon Ave., Marikina

Driving to the dentist on a Saturday morning, I came across roadworks along Angel Tuazon Ave. in Marikina City. The road connects the Marikina portion of Sumulong Highway with Marcos Highway in the Pasig/Cainta area and was also known as Fernando Sr. Ave. at one time. With the completion of works along Marcos Highway and Imelda Avenue, I was happy to see another road near my residence getting some much needed attention.

I thought that the works were just for the rehabilitation/concreting of damaged or weather pavements but it turned out to be something of a larger scope that includes drainage/flood control. The following photos were taken along the stretch of A. Tuazon last Saturday. Shown in the photos are road repairs, re-blocking/re-paving, drainage works and sidewalk construction in various stages of implementation. By the looks of it (there were a lot of people working along different sections of the avenue) the project will finish in time for the opening of school in June. Kudos to Marikina leaders for doing their jobs in this road and area that are usually subject to flooding during times of severe rain.

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I didn’t bother to put captions on the photos as they pretty much speak for themselves.

Olongapo-Castillejos Road: Subic

I took the following photos en route to the venue of our annual planning workshop. This year our office went to San Antonio, Zambales and our trip allowed me to photograph road conditions and characteristics along the Olongapo-Castillejos Road, which is a national highway. Like most Philippine highways, one will notice the operations of the ubiquitous tricycle, a motorized three-wheeled paratransit mode popular and dominant in many towns and cities.

City limits – boundary of Olongapo City and Subic municipality with one of the most colorful arches I’ve seen along a national road

Rounding the curve – some congestion due to the slow-moving trailer carrying a backhoe/excavator

Passing distance – a platoon of vehicles passes the slow-moving truck. With no vehicles along the opposing lane, many vehicles succeed in the passing maneuver

Regional buses – including mini-buses tend to stop anywhere along their routes and tend to cause congestion like pedicabs, tricycles and jeepneys

The real Subic – Municipal hall of Subic town. People always refer to Subic as the former US naval base; the area of which was carved out from the provinces of Zambales and Bataan. In reality, no part of the Subic Freeport is in Subic town and the name comes from the bay rather than the town.

Good roads – the roads along the national highway were mostly in good or excellent condition including those in the CBD or bayan

Busy streets – traffic was relatively heavy along the highway at Subic

Mixed traffic – aside from the typical jeepneys, tricycles and motorcycles everywhere, there were a significant number of buses and trucks

Parade of tricycles – like most towns around the Philippines, roads are often dominated by local traffic most especially tricycles that are used for public transport in even large cities

Air conditioning? – we came upon this tricycle carrying a block of ice (apparently purchased by a passenger) and wondered what would be left of the block once they reach their destination

Open road – past Subic town center, traffic was already very light

No overtaking – many sections along the road featured a solid orange-yellow line along the middle of the highway that should be understood as no overtaking. Shoulders are also clearly marked by the solid white lines on either side of the carriageway

Curvature – overtaking is discouraged along curves as sight is limited and therefore restricts drivers’ and riders’ capabilities to properly discern opposing vehicles.

Passing sight distance – the view from our position as we prepared to pass a slower moving vehicle in front of us illustrates sufficient PSD for us to succeed in our maneuver. Note the perceived distance between us and the vehicle in the opposing lane.

Clear for take-off – such scenes along low traffic volume highway sections around the country and elsewhere seem to invite drivers to speed up.

Bridge before the boundary – I didn’t pay attention enough to see the name of the bridge and had to google it. Pamatawan Bridge allows people to cross the Balaybay River in Zambales. Just after the bridge and visible downstream from our position in the photo is the arch welcoming travelers to the Municipality of Castillejos.

Municipal boundary – like many others across the country boundaries are marked by arches like the one in the photo welcoming travelers to Municipality of Castillejos. This one though is among the more appropriate ones given the town’s name, which translates to “small castle.”

Failure in transplant? – The trees along the Katipunan median island

A day after featuring the ongoing lane rationalization project along Katipunan Avenue, I was able to take photos of the transplanted trees along the median as we traveled along the southbound direction of the road. The trees were transferred to the new median as will the light posts later.

Following are three photos taken last May 16, 2012 showing the transplanted trees with their leaves still green but already showing signs of withering (nalalanta na). I thought this was natural given the grown trees being balled and transferred plus the fact that we were still enduring the summer heat.

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This morning (Sunday, May 20), as I drove along the same way I saw that the trees’ branches have been cut off. I am not a botanist or an expert with flora but perhaps this was done to allow the trees to recover? The optimist in me says leaves will eventually sprout from the stubs much like they did for the trees removed from the Katipunan service road about a decade ago that were transferred to the Marikina Riverbanks, many of which lived only to perish from Ondoy’s floods in 2009. The following photos are what’s left of the median island trees of Katipunan.

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Melaka central bus terminal

Trips between Singapore and Malaysia are quite frequent given the proximity between the two countries (Singapore used to be part of Malaysia.) with a lot of people employed just across the borders and Malaysia being a popular destination for shopping and recreation. In fact, the first Premium Outlet in Asia is located in Johor, Malaysia, which is just across the border from Singapore. On a weekend trip to Melaka (Malacca), we took an express bus that made only 3 stopovers including one each for immigration control/processing in Singapore (exit) and Malaysia (entry). On the way back, we only had an extra stopover due to a fellow passenger requesting for a toilet break.

Arriving at Melaka, I was impressed with the central bus terminal, a sprawling complex that connected with commercial establishments around it. Inside the terminal, there are many shops and restaurants so one doesn’t need to leave the terminal to eat or to make some last minute shopping. Good buys are rubber sandals much like those being sold under Brazilian brands. Malaysia is a major producer of rubber and the sandals made in Malaysia are of high quality but less expensive than the Brazilian and perhaps Chinese counterparts.

Terminal building and parking

A look at the spacious parking area around the terminal.

Directional sign to guide visitors (probably sponsored by the emporium indicated at the bottom).

Pedestrian overpass for people crossing the busy highway in front of the terminal.

There are many restaurants and shops inside the terminal, which is by itself a commercial establishment.

Hotel/accommodations information for travelers are posted at the terminal.

The different bus companies operating out of the terminal have their booths were travelers may buy/reserve tickets.

The ticketing area is spacious and there were no long lines, in part due to the availability of online (internet) ticket purchases. Seating is not free for all so travelers need to reserve or purchase tickets ahead of travel in order to get good schedules and seats.

One can purchase tickets to any point in Malaysia (local long distance trips) and Singapore (another country) is among the most popular destinations. Schedules and fares are posted for information of travelers.

There are many choices among the bus companies but I would strongly recommend Starmart Express buses when traveling between Singapore and Malaysia. They provide excellent service and have well-maintained buses. One can purchase tickets online and claim these at their booths/stations.

Interactive information screen at the terminal

Static information board for the locations of bus company booths at the terminal

Travelers lining up before a booth to purchase tickets

Buses berthed at the terminal departure area

Typical long distance limousine bus plying routes between Malaysia and Singapore

The central bus terminal at Melaka is a good example of terminal design for long distance buses. Such concepts are also found in the Philippines but with some significant variations in the design. Among the notables are the terminals in Mabalacat (Pampanga), Lucena (Quezon) and Legazpi City (Albay) in Luzon. Other terminals in the Philippines are not good examples in the sense that many are not developed or well-planned, many without the amenities or features of a modern terminal. Perhaps local and international examples of terminals should serve as templates for central terminal development in the Philippines including those being conceptualized for Metro Manila.