By Macon Araneta

The operation of the ride-hailing companies Angkas, Joyride and MoveIt, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said, will continue amid an earlier order to terminate thepilot program for motorcycle taxis and arrest their drivers who will ply their routes next week.

Recognizing the benefitsthey provide to the riding public, Go recently said the programwill continue until Republic Act 4136 is amended to include motorcycles as an alternative for public transport.

According to Go, he already talked to Department of Transportation (DOTr) Sec. Arthur Tugade to cancel his order to stop the pilot test program and apprehend all motorcycle taxis which will defy his order. 

Tugade and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Martin Delgra guaranteed authoritieswill no longer arrest Angkas, Joyride and MoveIt next week.

“I talked to Sec. Tugade, also Chairman Delgra and the LTFRB Technical Working Group (TWG) and told them to extend the operations and not to stop the pilot (program) …. talk first with TWG, Grab, not to resort to legal remedies as it would be hurting the parties. They can resolve issues while waiting foramendments to this law because if this will not be amended, their operation will be illegal,” explained Go. 

During the Senate hearing last January 19 on the legalization of motorcycles conducted by the Senate Public Services committee chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, Go said hewill recommend to Duterte and Tugade to extend the pilot program of motorcycle taxis.

He said the ride-hailing companies should accede the recommendations of LTRFB-TWG on Motorcycle Taxis chaired by Maj. Gen. Antonio Gardiola Jr.

He also raised the condition that motorcycle taxis should abide and care for the safety of the passengers.

“I will support the continuation of the program, ” Go told the Senate hearing.

In acknowledging the many benefits that Angkas provides to the commuting public, Gosaid they help ease the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila and other key cities in the country by providing an alternate option to existing public transportation. 

“It provides cheaper and faster services compared to many offered by other 4-wheeled vehicles in the sector. It also helps thousands of previously unregulated habal-habal drivers in our country by enabling them to become part of the formal economy,” he said. 

“We also acknowledge the high safety standards being observed by Angkas, which include (1) accepting drivers with no less than 2 years of driving experience; (2) their units must not be older than 7 years old; (3) training with written and practical exams needed to be passed and (4) helmets and reflectors being provided to drivers and passengers alike. “

However, hepointed out that under existing laws, motorcycles are not allowed to be used for public transport. 

Because of this, he cited the need for an amendment to RA 4136 to allow motorcycles to be used as public transport.

Considering its pioneering status, Angkas was tapped as a participant in the pilot implementation, which began in June 2019. 

As the program is a relatively new concept in transportation services, it can only rely on the fluidity of the pilot implementation to develop the guidelines.

Thus, he said the TWG has been developing guidelines which are meant to safeguard public interest.

Consequently, the TWG alsoopened up the program to include other participants, to be able to establish a benchmark analysis and provide Congress with valuable inputs to develop a regulatory framework in coming up with the necessary recommendations as well as amendments to RA 4136.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto assailedthe apparent arbitrariness” of the TWG when it imposed a 10,000 bikers limit for each motorcycle-hailing firm participating in the pilot study.

Earlier. the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that halted for 72 hours the implementation of the government’s ceiling on the number of motorcycle taxis allowed to participate in the ongoing pilot program.

“It shows that you lack public consultations that’s why the court issues TRO against you, that’s the reason. And then because of the TRO, you show anger. It is clear in this document, too much anger. Because they had a rally against you, you’re now angry. You lacked public consultation, that is your problem,” emphasized Recto.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian echoed Recto’s views, saying what Recto is right. “What you’re doing is revenge. This is revenge,” said Gatchalian.

Gatchalian said he could not see the basis of TWG’s recommendation to terminate the pilot testing on motorcycle taxis.

“All of these have no basis and you heard what our senators said and all of us agree that this resolution is not right because our riding public are already suffering,” he said.

Gatchalian said he was not convinced the legal actions taken by Angkas should hinder the implementation of the mentioned TWG activities.

He said the TRO was about the cap, there’s no TRO on mystery passenger, visitation and conduct of field study.

Poe warned about morelawsuits if the program would be stopped because it’s counter -productive. She also asked the government to reconsider its decision to terminate the pilot test program for motorcycle taxis.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the abrupt decision of the TWG to cancel the study on motorcycle taxis as a viable public transportation is illogical. 

He said the TWG’s findings would have provided both houses of Congress a clearer perspective on the issue at hand, as its primary mandate should be.

In outlawing motorcycle taxis with its decision to cancel the study, the TWG placed a portion of the riding public dependent on motorcycle taxis at risk because they will patronize an illegitimate form of transportation. 

From what we have gathered, our workers are reliant on motorcycle taxis to get to their jobs on time given the worsening traffic conditions here in Metro Manila.

For service providers that motorcycle taxi firms tap, Villanueva said the cancellation of the study means adding an estimated 27,000 riders back to the unemployment column. 

“We should create more jobs, not take away means of getting an honest day’s pay.”

He pointed out the fact remains that the public needs an alternative mode of transportation, more choices for mobility and with traffic congestion choking the streets, motorcycle taxis are one of the most viable solutions.

He also said, to reduce the demand for ride hailing transportation services, there is a need to provide the public with better, cheaper, more efficient alternative. That there is a need to fix the public transportation system. Otherwise, prohibiting the motorcycle taxi service without providing an alternative is simply ridiculous.

“While we are supportive of a free market and we welcome the entry of more players, these new players should also keep in mind the convenience of the public — the riders and passengers. The new players should be able to provide an app that is easy to use and efficient, and more importantly, accredited drivers that are properly trained in road safety precautions.”