PuertoPrincesa Converting Motorcycle taxis to Run on LPG
By Antonio Graceffo
One of the most familiar sites in the
Philippines is the thousands of three wheeled motorcycles used as taxis. The colorful vehicles decorate the streets, adding a certain charm. Unfortunately the two cycle engines of the small, car-like cycles belch black exhaust fumes, which sting the eyes and clog the lungs. The environmental impact of so many horribly polluting vehicles is devastating.
Island lies Puerto Princesa a small, relatively unknown city where a visionary mayor, Edward Hagedorn is making international headlines for his unwavering stance on environmental issues. As a part of his clean and green campaign, the mayor has instituted a program, converting the old gasoline engines to run on environmentally friendly LPG (liquid petroleum gas).
Harry Uttman of Black Prince Communications, based out of
Manila, came down to Puerto Princesa to oversee the conversions. “You see all that black smoke coming out?” He asked, indicating a recently converted vehicle. “That is carbon leftover from before. With LPG there is no carbon. The vehicle will smoke like that for about eight days. Once the old carbon burs out, the vehicle will run cleanly.”
The problem of harmful emissions is exacerbated by a lack of regular maintenance. The taxi drivers don’t earn a large amount of money. Since feeding their families is the number one priority, many don’t do routine maintenance on their motorcycles.
“One of the bikes we converted today,” said Harry, “the driver told us the entire exhaust system had never been changed since he bought it 19 years ago.”
Harry explained the economics of conversion.
“Right now, the average driver spends about 280 Pesos (approx. $7.50 US) per day on fuel. Gas costs 38 Pesos per liter. LPG costs 24 Pesos. So, right away, he can save 40% on fuel costs. In addition, one liter of LPG will power the bike for about 5% greater distance.”
The savings to the drivers added up to real money. In the
Philippines, 6,000 Pesos (less than 180 USD) is considered a decent wage. After conversion the drivers could be saving several thousand Pesos per month. That meant more food for their families and better education for their children. The social impact of the conversion is nearly as significant as the environmental one.
“The conversion costs 12,000 Pesos per bike, which many drivers couldn’t afford.” explained Harry. “Because this is his project, the Mayor is picking up half the tab.”
Mayor Hagedorn is subsidizing each conversion to the tune of 6,000 Pesos.
“After conversion, the motorcycles will need to refuel at a LPG station. Mayor Hagedorn is encouraging investors to build a refueling station.”
“My team is only here for a few days to teach the local mechanics at this gas station how to do the conversion. Once we leave, they will have a new line of business, converting bikes, which will mean more income for them. Since they are doing the conversion, the mayor is encouraging this station to become the refueling station.”
“One of the mechanics was a part time driver. Now that he will be doing conversions full time, he is renting out his bike to a new driver.”
The LPG program just created a new business owner.
PuertoPrincesa’s approximately 4,000 motorcycle taxis are regulated by several taxi associations, who jointly run a tight ship. For example, all bikes must be either white or blue color. To give everyone a chance to make money, blue and white operate on alternating days. All of the association leaders have agreed to set an example by having their bikes converted.
All bikes have to pass emissions standards testing before they can receive their approval from the associations. The obvious way to end the emissions problem would be to ban the registration of the polluting vehicles.
In Philippines Harry estimates there are 2.5 million of the older severely polluting bikes. “But we cant just ban them,” explains Harry. “The 2.5 million bikes are feeding 7.5 million people.”
LPG conversion is just a small part of Mayor Hagedorn’s Clean and Green campaign. Residents of Princesa accredit the mayor with having eliminated corruption, eradicated crime, lifted the standards of education and medical services, and improved sanitation.
“On my first day in Puerto Princesa I was fined 200 Pesos for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground.” Laughs Harry.
In other pats of the country city mayors were reluctant to implement the conversion policy, thinking that they needed a special ruling or approval for a new law. Mayor Hagedorn, who is president of the Association of Mayors of the Philippines, argued that the conversion is covered under the Clean Air Act, which has already been passed in the
Philippines. As a result, other Philippine cities are following in Puerto Princesa’s footsteps.
If a small, previously unknown city in a poor nation can learn to preserve the environment, why can’t the rest of us?
Antonio Graceffo is an adventure travel and martial arts author living in
Asia. You can reach at email@example.com See his website, speakingadventure.com
Contact Puerto Princesa Tourism office at firstname.lastname@example.org