How the ‘Salamander’ was born

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Victor “Atoy” Lim Llave shows the plush interior of one of the vans he customized.

Victor “Atoy” Lim Llave shows the plush interior of one of the vans he customized.

WHEN Typhoon Ondoy was flooding many parts of Metro Manila and its surrounding areas in September 2009, the Philippine Army approached Victor “Atoy” Lim Llave, president of Omaka Inc., to repair their fiberglass boats that would be used in search and rescue operations.

But Llave’s entity doing automotive body kit works, Atoy Customs, could not repair the boats in one day. Instead, he gave the Philippine Army three fiberglass bubble tops supposedly to be installed in vans.

“I gave them three bubble tops for [Hyundai] Starex, [Ford] E150 and I think the Foton View [vans]and they were able to save many lives,” he said.

From that experience, Llave was inspired to build a rescue boat that can be used locally and show to the world that the Philippines can build world-class products. He even used the equipment in his facility for molding bubble tops to create his first rescue boats.


Llave’s first two rescue boat designs, however, were rejected by both the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). He decided that if he failed to convince the NDRRMC or the PCG of the viability of his rescue boat design for the third time, he would drop the whole thing.

In the waters near the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park (Luneta) in Manila, elements of the PCG subjected Llave’s third rescue boat design to a rigorous stability and buoyancy test.

“They stood in front of the boat and did a figure of eight. They wanted to see how stable our boat was,” he said, adding that his third boat design passed the tests of the PCG and the NDRRMC.

“With so many selling rescue boats, the NDRRMC and PCG approved ours,” Llave said.

The double-hull structure of Llave’s design made sure his rescue boat was almost unsinkable and could take on very challenging situations. The certification gained from the PCG and NDRRMC enabled him to sell his rescue boat to local government units, among others.

But the boat was not the end of the story as Llave was challenged by an official of the Asian Development Bank to develop what could be the world’s first amphibious tricycle, that he christened the “Salamander.” He is actually its “Chief Designer.”

Llave said he and his partners in H2O Technologies Inc. have invested “millions of pesos” for the research and development efforts on the Salamander that can be powered by either an electric or petrol engine. It can accommodate six passengers including the driver.

Although H20 Technologies can manufacture the Salamander at a rate of 10 units per month, he said factory production can be undertaken to increase the number of units produced and achieve economies of scale. The initial price ranges from P295,000 to P495,000 per unit with full options.

H20 Technologies is seeking investors so a factory can be established to produce large quantities of the amphibious tricycle.

“We have 26,000 barangays [villages]that are flood-prone,” Llave said.

He added that he wants the Salamander to be known worldwide as a Filipino-made product.

“If you see it [Salamander] in Hong Kong, Italy or elsewhere, we can say that is Philippine-made,” Llave said.

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