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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, Nov. 8) – A PGK3 million [US$1 million] factory will be built in the Papua New Guinea town of Wewak to assemble jeepneys despite their declining popularity in the Philippines due to increasing competition and growing pollution concerns.

[PIR editor’s note: Wewak is a town on the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea’s mainland peninsula.]

A groundbreaking ceremony will take place in the East Sepik provincial capital later this month after the arrival of officials from the Philippines Jeepney Manufacturing Corporation, who will operate the factory in a joint venture with local firm Jeepney Papua New Guinea.

Wewak Member of Parliament Kimson Kare and Ambunti-Drekikir colleague Tony Aimo announced yesterday the plant would create 500 new jobs, enable technology transfer from the Philippines to Papua New Guinea and promote a cheap alternative form of transport for the country.

"The president and chief executive officer of the Philippines Jeepney Manufacturing Corporation, Mr. Modesto D Mantuano, and three other senior officials will arrive in Port Moresby on November 15, they will then proceed on to Wewak for the ground breaking ceremony later on during the month," the two Members of Parliament said in a joint statement.

The parliamentarians’ praises of the Filipino cultural icon comes two years after Deputy Prime Minister and Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Don Polye expressed similar sentiments while on a visit to the Philippines. "We want an efficient means of transport. The jeepney has the most potential in terms of quality. We want the type of technology we will be able to sustain," he reportedly said in early 2004.

The Kandep Member of Parliament stuck to his guns and a year later, a jeepney began operating as a public motor vehicle on route No. 9 serving Port Moresby residents between the suburbs of Gerehu and Boroko.

While emphasizing that the Wewak factory will promote the automotive industry in Papua New Guinea, Mr. Kare and Mr. Aimo said more details on the technical aspects of the project will be announced during the groundbreaking ceremony.

It is not known if locally-assembled jeepneys from Wewak will only be for the Papua New Guinea market or be exported back to the Philippines, where it is facing an uphill battle in many cities against Japanese-made air-conditioned minivans known as "FXs" – short for the Toyota Tamaraw FX (Toyota Kijang).

The jeepney — a legacy of the Second World War manufactured from jeeps left behind by American troops — has also come under the scrutiny of city municipal governments for its pollution levels and the risk it poses to both passengers and crew.

A World Health Organization funded study on the exposure of a sample population to vehicular emissions in 1990 and 1991 in Manila showed that chronic respiratory symptoms are significantly higher among jeepney drivers than commuters and air-conditioned bus drivers.

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