On July 1 of last year, the government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) agreed to a $1 billion (P54.89 billion) financing arrangement to finance the High Priority Bus System (HPBS), a project to modernize the whole city's public transportation system.
According to Lemuel Manalo, an environmental planner and IDIS program coordinator, employing conventional buses could have an adverse effect on the environment by increasing carbon emissions.
Manalo supports the government's initiative to upgrade public transportation in the city, but he believes hybrid buses that are powered by solar or electricity are the "greener options" and ought to be given priority on Davao's streets.
The national government, the local government of Davao City, and ADB will split the project's P73.37 billion overall cost, according to Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista.
It would begin in the third quarter of 2023, he said.
The initiative, according to a news release from the ADB on June 29, would "deploy electric bus fleets at scale in support of the Philippines' efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and promote climate action."
According to the statement, the loan would "support the acquisition of a modern fleet consisting of approximately 1,100 electric and diesel buses that meet Euro 5-standard emissions standards, with operations managed by the private sector under performance-based contracts."
According to the report, Davao City, the third-largest city in terms of population, will see a 60% reduction in yearly greenhouse gas emissions from public transportation thanks to the new fleet.
It added that the HPBS would service about 800,000 passengers per day.
According to ADB, it would also include the “construction of around 1,000 bus stops with bright lighting and shelters, 5 bus depots and 3 bus terminals, and provide bus driving training for the new system.”
“The project will upgrade the city’s public transport experience via an intelligent transport system that includes a bus location system, automatic fare collection systems, and Wi-Fi connectivity in buses, terminals, and depots,” it added.
Manalo said that shifting to mass transit is urgently needed and necessary for developing cities like Davao in order to ease the current transportation crisis, affecting commuters particularly during rush hour and holiday season.
However, Manalo said the buses must be closely monitored because megacities like Manila, Jakarta in Indonesia, and Bangkok in Thailand are troubled by their bus systems because they are already dominating the highways, choking intersections and loading areas, and causing traffic congestion and air pollution.
“On the positive side, buses are forms of mass transit. Shifting to mass transit also saves road spaces to loosen traffic and decrease car dependency,” he said.
He said commuters—particularly the differently abled, seniors, and pregnant women—“deserve a safe, comfortable, affordable and highly-accessible public transport.”
Manalo added that he hopes the city would design the roadways to be "transit-oriented" to efficiently transport and make it possible for people, not only the automobiles, to move around the city.
He argued that other modes of transportation, including as bicycles, scooters, and other light mobility vehicles (LMVs), should be used in addition to mass taransit systems like buses and monorails.
He said the city should provide more options for public transport, so that its citizens don’t need to rely on private vehicles, considering the increase in fuel prices and limited capacity of the current road networks.
Manalo added that the buses should have carriers for LMVs to promote “bimodal transportation” where commuters could bring along their bikes or scooters on board, similar to the “transportation culture in the Netherlands,” which is also being pushed by some groups in Metro Manila.