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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I didn’t bother to put captions on the photos as they pretty much speak for themselves.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Got to pass by the Muelle Del Rio again en route to a meeting at the DPWH in the Port Area. We took this route as we wanted to avoid congestion in front of the Manila City Hall and along Padre Burgos. I made sure I took additional photos of the road including the approach from the Quezon Bridge to show the parked vehicles, mostly UV Express, parked along the road. Some maps already refer to the Muelle Del Rio as Riverside Drive. I think this is not appropriate especially from the perspective of heritage and the preservation of street names that are strongly linked with history. Such is an unnecessary simplification that should not be the case especially in the historic City of Manila and in the vicinity of Intramuros.
Taking a turn – turning from the approach towards the riverside portion of the Muelle del Rio, one can see the bridge for the LRT Line 1 and trees where homeless people usually take shelter. The driveway under the bridge is for a public transport terminal occupying the area under the bridge.
Behind the Post Office – the walls/fence of the post office is vandalized while there seems to be no one using the walkway along the Pasig River at the right of the photo. The yellow poles are light posts. There are no pavement markings along this stretch of the road.
Bureau of Immigration – the BI complex is behind the wall shown on the left of the photo. There is a wide buffer zone along the Pasig River that’s been developed into a riverside park by the City of Manila. The curious Y-shaped structures are lamp posts that provide ample illumination at night time.
Post-terminal – the open area/riverside park continues after the ferry terminal and across the Plaza Mexico. Faintly visible on the left of the photo is the Acapulco Galleon Trade Monument that commemorated the trade route between the Philippines and Mexico during the Spanish Period. Across from the other side of Plaza Mexico are the ruins of the old Aduana (Customs) building.
The dark side – the lamp posts seem to have been removed from their concrete bases. This was also shown in the preceding photo and I can just imagine how dark it is at night. The area has much potential as a park and the City of Manila should develop the place for it to attract people.
Reconstruction – the Intramuros Administration and the Department of Tourism are already implementing some projects here and there but more would have to be done for Intramuros and the Muelle del Rio to be revived and become a major attraction if only for its heritage value. I certainly would like to see it developed like Melaka in Malaysia.
The Intramuros area including the Muelle del Rio may be considered for cycling and pedestrian facilities to encourage people to walk and cycle in the area. The stretch certainly has potential for walking and NMT, and should not be allowed to deteriorate further. Off-street parking facilities should also be considered and carefully planned such that on-street parking may be restricted and space be made available for pedestrian facilities. I am sure there are many planners and architects who would be up to this challenge.
While driving along Katipunan last weekend, I noticed the excavations beside the median island along the southbound direction. The excavations were of curious shapes as they were large holes that were conspicuously beside each of the small trees planted on the median island. It suddenly struck me that this was likely the implementation of the planned adjustment of the median island to allow for an additional lane along Katipunan northbound. A few more passes along the project site confirmed my suspicion and I was finally able to take a few photos this morning of the work along this section of C-5.
The old median island has already been removed to make way for an additional lane along Katipunan (C-5) northbound. This will increase the number of lanes from 3 to 4 and should ease traffic when classes open in June. Meanwhile, the trees have been replanted on the adjacent lane on the southbound direction where a new median will be constructed.
After transferring the trees, the old curb is demolished and the soil excavated and transferred to the new median on the other side. A new curb is being constructed and is visible in center of the photo.
While the project is being implemented 2 lanes of the southbound side are effectively unusable to traffic with one lane being converted into a median and another being used by the contractor for their equipment and materials.
Once completed, the section of Katipunan should have 4 lanes along the northbound direction. Meanwhile, the southbound direction will have 5 lanes from the 6 it had after the west service road was removed as part of the U-turn scheme implementation by the MMDA 9 years ago. The 5 lanes are not all usable to general traffic since 1 or 2 lanes area often occupied by parked or standing vehicles in relation to the establishments on this side of Katipunan.
I have not been to the Smokey Mountain area in a long while. The last time I’ve been there was in the mid 1990s (around 1995) when the area was still largely undeveloped and literally smoking from the smoldering garbage and the fires caused by methane released by the decomposing waste in the open dump site that grew to mountainous proportions. At the time, there were some efforts to alleviate the living conditions of people who resided here, many of whom depended on scavenging for junk and the production of charcoal. While Quezon City had its own mountains of garbage in Payatas, Smokey Mountain at the time symbolized poverty and desperation in the Philippines and took informal settlement to an even higher level than what we usually see around factories and vacant lots mainly in cities around the country where people try their luck in the hopes of having better conditions in life.
The following photos were taken while we were returning to Quezon City from a meeting in Manila. Our driver offered the idea to take this route as against the usual one that passed through Quezon Blvd and the Quiapo area, believing that a route via R-10 and C-4 would be faster. It was indeed faster and afforded me photo ops of the road environment along the way. Admittedly, the photos are not of good quality (blurry) as it was a gloomy afternoon and there was a slight drizzle the entire time we drove from the Port Area to UP Diliman.
R-10 northbound – having an animated conversation with my fellow passenger, I almost forgot where we were and the area we were passing en route to C-4. I suddenly recognized the area when I saw what looked like a small hill in the horizon. It was then that I realized that that was no hill. It was a mountain – Smokey Mountain.
Walk-up – on our right were 4-storey apartment buildings that looked like they were at the point of bursting what with all the protruding wood, metal and cardboard from the buildings. The original building is colored beige and all other “enhancements” are actually attempts to expand units probably made by residents to accommodate more (extended) family members.
Extensions and expansions – I don’t know if the modifications to the tenements are legal or done with the approval of local authorities. I am sure though that these are unsafe and would probably collapse if a significant magnitude earthquake hit Metro Manila. Such are the urgent problems of mass housing that need to be addressed and quickly. But then, beneficiaries of such housing should not abuse their units to the point that they become decrepit and safety hazards.
On-street parking – along R-10 were parked vehicles of which many were trucks and tricycles. The residential areas are served mainly by 3-wheelers including tricycles and pedicabs (padyak). Most business along the roadside cater to truckers: vulcanizing shops, vehicle repair, eateries and sari-sari stores that are part of the informal (and underground) economy; a major aspect of transport in the Philippines.
Wide carriageway – the sections of R-10 in the Smokey Mountain area had something like 5 lanes per direction. There were no pavement markings so this is just an estimate based on the likely lane widths to factor in the significant truck traffic passing through the area. My previous memory of the place was a 2 lane road without curbs or shoulders.
Foot of the mountain – this is what remains of Smokey Mountain after much of the garbage had been transferred, and the rest treated after dumping was ordered discontinued in the 1990s after outcries from environmentalists and various NGOs. The pavement conditions back in the 1990s were so bad that there were frequent congestion along the road and leachate from the garbage flowed along the roads. It was worse during the wet season as the rain and the usual winds sprayed a stinky mix unto vehicles passing the area. One had to wash or take his/her vehicle to the car wash as it will smell really bad. If you allow the vehicle to dry, its even worse because in addition to the smell, the car exterior would be sticky.
Mountainside – there were garbage and other wastes, the homeless and informal settlers everywhere in the area. Mountains of waste were on either side of the road, and the smell will seep into a vehicle, never mind if one drove a new car as the stench was strong enough to overwhelm filters and air-conditioning given enough time.
The residential buildings in the preceding photos are not the first ones to be built in the area. In the early 1990’s a few walk-ups were constructed on the other side of the highway as a first effort to address the question of informal settlements around Smokey Mountain. I remember those to be the first ones to be abused by the residents/tenants themselves who seem to think it was their right rather than privilege to be granted housing and be beneficiaries of livelihood projects by both government and NGOs.
It is a good thing that the dump site was closed many years ago. Unfortunately, similar waste disposals are present elsewhere including parts of Payatas in Quezon City and San Mateo in Rizal. Open dump sites should not be an option for many LGUs without the proper guidance of experts from pertinent government agencies and the private sector. Proper and suitable waste management systems should be a priority for LGUs.