The Philippines, a small southeast Asian country comprised of over 7,000 islands, is the first country in Asia to embrace the electric vehicle for public transportation.
Known for its beautiful beaches, friendly people, and pristine weather, the Philippines is also a hub for industry in and around its bustling capital city of Manila, that comes with big city problems like pollution and poverty.
Asian countries are well known for their various modes of public transportation, from the Autorickshaws in India, to the three-wheeled Tuk Tuk’s of Thailand. The Philippines is no different with its history of Jeepney’s, a remnant of American military jeeps left over from World War II that were adapted for public transport.
With extensive air pollution from industry and motor vehicles, the Philippines is turning to electric vehicles for public transportation, thanks to innovative privately funded social enterprise EVE (Electric Vehicle Expansion Enterprises Inc.).
Launched by German/Philippine model Valerie Weigmann, Attorney. Leonido J. Pulido, who is also co-founder of the Makati Green Route, (the first electric vehicles used in the Philippines), and Yuri P. Sarmiento – the former President and CEO of the Makati Green Route who is an active voice in electric vehicle advocacy.
Acknowledged as Cosmopolitan Magazine’s Eight Sexiest Models in 2012, Valerie was born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany but spent a large part of her childhood in the Philippines, her mother’s hometown. At 18 she decided to live in the Philippines to help take care of her grandmother and to pursue a career in modeling. During that time Valerie started volunteering for various non-governmental organizations and charities, “as my small way of giving back to society and to vent my frustrations about the numerous developmental challenges in Philippine society.”
Turning her frustration to inspiration this social entrepreneur says, “I am inspired by the whole idea of social entrepreneurship. I have heard of the numerous issues and challenges faced by non-governmental organizations regarding funding and policy. One day, I read about social enterprises and I was so happy to learn that there is a developmental model that can be self-sufficient, sustainable and, with luck and hard work, expandable. Inspired by the idea of a social enterprise – we decided to put up a company that would be a vehicle for our advocacy, which is the use of electric vehicles in public transportation.”
“My partners in EVE were part of the group who put up the first electric Jeepney route in the Philippines. This was called the Makati Green Route. However, realizing that the use of electric vehicles in public transport was not spreading, my partners and I decided to create EVE to aggressively pursue the expansion of electric vehicles in public transport. We work closely with the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines or EVAP, the primary NGO that advocates the use of electric vehicles.”
EVE was able to close a contract with a private development called Filinvest City located in Muntinlupa City in Metro Manila. Under the contract, EVE became the sole public transport operator for Filinvest City and thus, was authorized to deploy twenty (20) electric Jeepneys as the sole public transport for the commuters in Filinvest City. The project was named FC360.
The mission of EVE is to modernize public transport in the Philippines, which is characterized by terrible air pollution from old and dilapidated Jeepneys, lack of road discipline that leads to numerous accidents, gender bias in employment, and a wage system that is oppressive to drivers.
Specifically the mission is to address the following problems:
a.) Greenhouse Gas Emission (air pollution) – It is estimated that 10 million tons of CO2 and 22,000 tons of black carbon are emitted in the Philippines every year, 85% of which comes from vehicles. EVE wants to replace the more than 100,000 Jeepneys with electric Jeepneys.
b.) Deteriorating public health due to air pollution – pollution related respiratory ailments claim an estimated 5,000 deaths per year in the Philippines, and cost the Government USD 400,000.00 in annual healthcare expenses.
c.) Absence of job security – Jeepney Operators hire drivers to operate their jeeps under a scheme called The Boundary System. The Boundary System is a daily rental arrangement between the driver and the Operator, wherein the driver pays an upfront fee or Boundary for the right to use the Operator’s Jeepney for 24 hours. If the driver fails to earn above the Boundary rate, he will not be able to bring home income for his family. The pressure to earn a living under these conditions while competing against other public transport providers resulted in a general attitude of aggressiveness among Jeepney drivers. EVE wants to abolish the Boundary System and allow drivers to become salaried employees with benefits.
d.) Gender bias – Drivers need to work 16-hour shifts to recover the PhP 800 Boundary Fee and bring home an adequate income. Most women are unable to commit this amount of time away from home, especially if they have children. Additionally, studies suggest that women in the Philippines are less confrontational then men, and therefore put them at a disadvantage in an aggressive driving environment. There barriers limit the opportunities for women in the public transport sector. EVE has opened its doors to women and has already hired women as drivers and as site managers.
e.) Productivity losses. The lack of discipline among public transport drivers causes traffic congestion in the country’s major thoroughfares. One particular issue is the uncontrolled ingress and egress of passengers along the Jeepneys’ route. This clogs lanes and causes unnecessary bottlenecks. It is estimated that the Philippines loses US$ 3.2 billion each year from human productivity losses due to traffic congestion.
EVE is working hard to develop solutions around these problems. EVE’s employees are now receiving full daily wages and are no longer part of the Boundary System. EVE employs women drivers and managers. They have provided strict driver safety training. The best part, however, is knowing that every day EVE is working to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases and black carbon being released into the atmosphere. Yes it is only in the Philippines, but given the opportunity EVE would love to take their mission all over Asia.
Barriers to this expansion remain, “we would love to have more support from the Philippine Government and from traditional funding institutions. Currently, the Philippine Government does not have clear policies regarding the use of electric vehicles in public transport. There are also no existing incentives for the use of electric vehicles, whether by the private or the public sector.”
What keeps the dream going is the belief that small changes are necessary towards EVE’s core goals of preventing further climate change, modernizing public transport, and alleviating poverty.
As far as the future of EVE, Valerie states, “we have plans to expand, but this is currently limited by available funding. Thus, we plan to look for additional investors who share our passion and our goals.”
Like many social entrepreneurs Valerie has the fire within to make the world a better place, and offers this advice to fellow entrepreneurs, “My advice to aspiring social entrepreneurs is to simply go and throw yourself into the start-up community. An imperfect plan that sees the light of day and is actually used is infinitely better than a plan you believe to be perfect but is never implemented. Yes, you should plan well, but don’t spend too much time worrying about perfecting everything that it paralyzes you and stops you from ever starting. Don’t let initial failures discourage you. Instead, learn from it. Accept that failure is part of the learning process and, most importantly, a failed social enterprise is far better than staying at home and doing absolutely nothing about the numerous developmental and environmental problems that our world is facing.”
Couldn’t have said it any better myself. Developing a social mission alongside your profitable business takes time, and lots of doing. We can show you how. And YOU can make the world a better place, just like EVE is!
You can find EVE on Facebook to gain more insights and to offer your support.
Photo Credits in Order:
Feature Photo: Philippines Beach by The Wandering Angel via Freeforcommercialuse.org
Jeepneys in Traffic by Roberto Verzo via Freeforcommercialuse.org
EVE Jeepneys, Filinvest Jeepneys, and FC360 Map photos courtesy of Valerie Weigmann
Manila Pollution from the Air by Monica Arellano-Ongpin via Freeforcommercialuse.org