The ultimate web portal to Cebu CEBU VISITORS GUIDE: THE JEEPS OF CEBU


Cebu has the best public transportation system in the world. Oh, sure, American buses are large, air-conditioned and comfortable, German trains are clean, and Japanese subways come equipped with multiple flatpanel TV screens. But in terms of economy, availability, and sheer color, Cebu's jeepneys are hard to beat.

Our jeeps, as we call them, are full of panache and pizzazz - and render life itself more enjoyable. Cebu's jeeps are this island's only - but significant - contribution to world culture. How could the poor, the miserable and the lonely endure their torture day after day if it were not for the colorful jeeps dashing about our city?


The Philippines is known for its jeepneys. Jeepneys were born as surplus US Army jeeps converted into passenger-carrying buses. Being privately owned, they were richly decorated - often in sublimely bad taste - by their owners, and this tradition continues today. There are tens of thousands of jeeps in every major city of the Philippines.

Cebu's jeeps differ from Manila's jeeps. The Manila jeepney is downright ugly in comparison to Cebu's jeeps; every single one of them is built in the same monotonous old-school style (see Types of Jeep). Meanwhile, jeepney makers in Cebu keep pushing the envelop; our jeeps are cutting-edge. The jeeps in Iloilo are interesting, too, but different yet again. In terms of quality and craftsmanship, Cebu's jeeps reign supreme.

Of course, not all of Cebu's jeeps are state-of-the-art. Some of the jeepneys have been running the streets for decades. Even some of the newer jeeps are cheap and hastily put together and almost as ugly as Manila's jeeps. But the rules of the market economy have dictated that only the fittest will thrive, and evermore advanced designs continue to join the ranks of the elite jeeps. The latest trend is clear, Lexus-style taillights.

All jeeps, officially classified as Public Utility Jeeps - PUJ's - are privately owned and operated, and government involvement is minimal. This has worked well. Jeep owners comply with the law of supply and demand, and jeeps run the streets at all hours of the day. The distinct designs ensure that customers are familiar with the jeeps plying their commuter route, and learn to avoid jeeps with rude drivers or conductors.

The LTFRB - Land Transportation Franchises Regulatory Board - grants licenses, or franchises to jeep operators. Cebu City's traffic control arm, CITOM, regulates traffic and routes in conjuction with the LTFRB. Standardized fares are set by the LTFRB. In May of 2004, the LTFRB permitted an increase in fares due to inflation, and some commuters have been griping about that. Fares increased by about one peso.

Both the LTFRB, CITOM, and TEDMAN (Mandaue City's traffic regulation arm) struggle primarily to keep traffic caused by jeeps to wihin manageable limits. Jeeps are restricted from entering certain streets, and the LTFRB does its best to limit the number of jeeps on the road. For example, in 2003, the LTFRB decreed that the ownership of a franchises cannot be transferred, though this has since been reversed.


Jeeps don't just look good. The jeepney system is the world's best and most convenient public transportation system.

In no other country do you have competition - intense competition - between buses plying the same route. In all other countries, any particular route is operated by just one bus company. In the Philippines, each individual bus is owned by a different owner, and as a result you have buses competing with each other for customers. (Some operators own as many as a dozen jeeps, but these still amount to only a small fraction of the total number of jeeps plying that route.)

The bus companies in Europe, American, and Japan are monopolies for the routes that they operate. The bus company alone decides how frequently a bus is sent along a route to pick up passengers. While a city may have several bus companies, all ply different routes, and in effect amount to monopolies for the routes that they operate. Needless to say, the same is true for trains and subways.

Like all monopolies, the bus companies of the developed world provide only the bare minimum of resources, and service is only as good as it has to be. As a result, buses are infrequent, and passengers have to scurry to the bus station to catch a bus. So used to being controlled by monopolies are the consumers of the industrialized world that they think nothing of carrying around bus schedules and fretting about missing their only hope of transportation. Moreover, drivers and conductors (if available) will often be downright rude to their customers.

In the Philippines, jeeps compete with each along the same route. Competition for customers is intense, and thousands of jeeps eke out a living gathering as many customers as possible by running as often as possible. The result? The customer benefits, and passengers are bombarded with offers to ride along. Neither do Filipino passengers have to trek to a bus station - so eager are jeeps to gain your patronage, that they will stop anywhere for you as long as you are within sight. This is to the detriment of people in private cars, but to the benefit of the jeepney-riding public.

Regrettably, politicians never ride jeeps, and that is why people like Mayor Tomas Osmea of Cebu City try to crack down on jeepneys which stop anywhere, even though the number of commuters who ride jeeps outnumbers by far the number of commuters who drive their own car.

A red jeepney in Colon
Many jeepneys in the Philippines

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