Under the plan, drivers without the credit history or collateral needed for a normal loan may borrow the government money from Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation. As the jeepney owners repay the loan, the original amount of the loan goes back to the city while the bank pockets the interest.
"It smelled like fried chicken," jokes Mr. Bengzon. "But it worked."
If the pilot program runs smoothly, Ms. Aquino says it could expand to help more of Tanauan's 350 jeepney drivers save on fuel.
"It will be very economical for them," she says. "It is also environmentally sound; but to start, they will have to spend some money – more than they are used to."
Her biggest worry is that drivers will see this as a government handout and not make payments.
"I've told the government, 'You are not out in front. We are,' " says Long Pineda, who heads microfinance operations for Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation. "If the drivers get the money from city hall, they might think, 'We don't need to pay this back. It's taxpayer money anyway.' But when they go to a bank, they know they have to pay it back."
The terms of the loan are still being negotiated, but the city and bank will likely agree on an interest rate of 2 percent a month.
"Microfinance is a very lucrative business," Ms. Pineda says, "but it also provides a service. Jeepney owners normally borrow from money lenders who [don't require credit histories but] charge close to 20 percent interest a month. It's a huge savings for [drivers]."