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Newsmakers

Freddie Tinga’s new galaxy

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Freddie Tingaâs new galaxy
The ‘Comet,’ a zero-emission electric vehicle.

Former Taguig mayor and congressman Freddie Tinga is into something electric.

After 12 years in politics, Freddie, the president of Global Electric Transport Inc., is now orbiting a different galaxy and it includes a Comet, in fact, several Comets.

Comet stands for Community Optimized Managed Electric Transport and among those present during its launch in 2014 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza was no less than then US President Barack Obama. Obama even boarded the zero-emission electric shuttle.

“When I was mayor, I used to tell people this, ‘If you want to see problems up close, join politics, join government. But if you want to fix them, chances are it’s going to be easier if you do it from the outside,” Freddie tells us why he has “electric” dreams for the transport sector.

He decided to be part of the solution to the degradation of the environment and climate change by launching Comet. Moreover, the use of electric-powered vehicles as shuttles for employees was increasingly part of many multinational corporations’ sustainable development goals, as mandated by their headquarters.

Some local governments also turned to him, as did then Valenzuela Mayor, now congressman, Rex Gatchalian.

Former Taguig Mayor and congressman Freddie Tinga, wife Kaye and daughters Kerry and Kyle.

“In terms of local government’s support and participation, Valenzuela’s Rex Gatchalian is very good, very supportive. And, in fact, some of the tweaks that we’re looking to do now were actually suggestions of his from two years ago, during the pandemic.”

Gatchalian’s idea was to pre-book the rides like you would a flight.

“Thus, all you need is a QR code. Everything is by reservation, because during the pandemic, he said, ‘Fred, can you roll out electric vehicles here in Valenzuela so that my guys can just pre-book rides, so we know how many people are going to be riding. And so we also know how much we’re going to be spending’.” The electric shuttles plied the Valenzuela to SM North and Valenzuela to Ortigas routes. The plan is to eventually provide electric vehicles from Valenzuela to Makati.

There are now also Comets in other parts of Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and the Calabarzon area.

“The buses are ours. So our model with local governments or even private organizations is to partner with them,” says Freddie.

According to Freddie, “The Comet is the only electric vehicle that you’ll find locally that’s airconditioned. We’ve got a range of over 100 kilometers on a single charge. And unlike most electric vehicles, our charge time is basically 45 to 50 minutes.”

There are three models for deploying Comets.

“One is with the jeepney modernization program. So, what you will end up paying is pretty much jeepney rates, which I believe is  P13  for the first four kilometers and then P2 every kilometer thereafter for airconditioned modern PUVs. We also have the corporate shuttles, which are rented by companies. And then we have the specialized shuttles.”

The third model was inspired by women.

“We’ve probably run over 700,000 kilometers with this new batch of vehicles. We have had over 300,000 passengers and over 60 percent are women. So we see our demographic.”

“It turns out that we are becoming the preferred ride of females because walang siksikan, it’s safer. So that’s why we’re going to be launching in September this reserved-ride version. Walang tayuan. Our buses are also preferred by females because hindi natutunaw yung makeup nila.” No kidding!

“And so these are the discussions we’re having with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Department of Transportation.  Because we’re seeing that there’s really a unique service that’s needed. Because of our format and our technology, we can create a dedicated service for a small group of people and bring them as close as possible to their destination. So, if we could give you a semi-customized, smart, medium-sized, electric, zero-emission, mobile app-enabled taxi shared by 15 to 18 people, then we should be able to deliver the best possible combination of value, safety, comfort and convenience for the riding public.”

With classes having already started for most schools, Freddie expects the transportation situation to be more challenging in September.

“And I feel really bad. You know, we interview even our own people in the office. They’re spending 300 bucks a day on transport. And we know how much these people are making? It’s sad so we really want to help and we will start with our own people.”

Global Electric has an upcoming engagement with Union Bank, which is coming up with a new innovation campus in San Pedro, Laguna. The shuttle is from Ortigas to San Pedro. According to Freddie, with toll fees, this should cost around P150 to P170 per passenger.

“What we are ending up doing with a lot of our clients are customized routes for them and for their employees. So if the route has competing or compatible public transport, then they can take that. But from what we’re seeing, of that price point, of that comfort, of the quality, it really doesn’t exist right now. And this is why we see a lot of women taking risks riding motorbikes.

President Obama greets Global Electric Transport president Freddie Tinga during the launching of the ‘Comet’ in 2014.
Photo courtesy of Freddie Tinga

 

“You need an innovation that really disrupts the status quo,” believes Freddie.

Will these Comets have “surge” pricing? “We’re trying not to do that. We’ve looked at our rider base and our loyal passengers have ridden the Comet 250 to 300 times. Aalagaan na lang namin ‘yon and keep growing that loyal base. And while we have our jeepney modernization partners running the jeepney routes, I think eventually our bread and butter will be the specialized shuttles for those who need and want a ride that brings them closer to their destination.”

Freddie is confident both the government and private sector will join hands for this “electric” dream and make it a reality.

“Government is a difficult place to innovate, as you have set rules. You can push the boundaries a little bit, but not too much. But where the government is good at is that if there’s a working solution, government officials are quick to adapt. You know, government is a tough system to be in, but I think most of the people there have their hearts in the right place. And if you’re able to show them a model that works, you will have the adapters, innovators. And then most of the rest are willing to follow a model that works since it is their constituents who will benefit in the end.”

After all, transport should always be not just road worthy but people-worthy.

 

 

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

FREDDIE TINGA

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