By Lorenz S. Marasigan and Butch Fernandez
THE technical working group (TWG) for the motorcycle taxi program may reverse its decision to immediately stop the pilot run – a decision it suddenly announced on Monday morning, ahead of a Senate hearing — but this will come with strings attached.
Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said a decision to whether or not extend the pilot run for two-wheel public transport options should come out on Wednesday, when the interagency working group will formally convene.
This will be recommended to Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, who will ultimately decide on the extension.
“The interagency TWG on motorcycle taxis is considering the sentiments raised by the members of the Senate Committee on Public Services, as well as by other stakeholders,” she said.
She was referring to the Public Services panel hearing on Monday, presided over by committee chief Sen. Grace Poe, where senators surprised by the declaration of a termination of the second-phase trial, which should run until March 23, lambasted regulators.
Libiran explained that Tugade is amendable to the extension of the program, but noted several prerequisites to his approval.
“We are considering. But, according to Secretary Tugade, if it will be extended, it should not be in an atmosphere filled with cases. They shoulda agree on the cap, and they should agree on the study areas,” she said.
She was referring to the stay orders sought by Angkas and its riders on the supply cap provision of the amended rules for the pilot program.
“Another meeting shall likewise be conducted on Friday with stakeholders, resource persons, and the three motorcycle providers participating in the study, to iron out the specifics,” she said.
Senators weigh in
The Poe committee is conducting hearings as it rushes remedial legislation to amend the decades-old national transportation and traffic code, in order to allow for motorcycle taxis.
Poe said the results of the TWG studies – from its first six-month trial participated in by ride-hailing app Angkas, and from the second phase to run until March 23 unless cancelled as announced on Monday – are crucial as basis for the amendatory law.
Also weighing in against the TWG decision to cancel its study on motorcycle taxis were Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Ralph Recto, Joel Villanueva and Christopher “Bong” Go.
“The abrupt decision of the Technical Working Group (TWG) to cancel the study on motorcycle taxis as a viable public transportation is illogical,” Villanueva said, adding that 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, Villanueva said the TWG placed at risk those commuters dependent on motorcycle taxis because they will patronize an illegitimate form of transportation, apparently referring to the outlawed “habal habal,” the pioneer in motorbike taxis.
“For service providers that motorcycle taxi firms tap, 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 added.
According to Villanueva, the fact remains that the public needs an alternative mode of transportation, more choices for mobility; and with traffic congestion choking our streets, motorcycle taxis are one of the most viable solutions. “To reduce the demand for ride hailing transportation services, we need to provide the public with better, cheaper, more efficient alternative. We need to fix the public transportation system. Otherwise, prohibiting the motorcycle taxi service without providing an alternative is simply ridiculous.”
Equal participation does not necessarily mean fair competition in the government’s extended pilot test for motorcycle taxis, Senator Imee Marcos said.
“There was dagdag-bawas [cut-and-add] here. To create a semblance of fairness, they reduced the number of experienced drivers of one company, hoping perhaps to force them to join new players who still lack drivers. I wonder why that is so?” Marcos asked in Filipino.
The Department of Transportation-Technical Working Group (DOTR-TWG) allotted an equal number of drivers to ride-hailing companies Angkas, JoyRide and MoveIt for the three-month extended test run that started this month, each to have 10,000 in Metro Manila and 3,000 in Metro Cebu.
A temporary restraining order has put on hold the DOTR-TWG’s rule, but the court order expires at the end of the month and may leave 17,000 of 27,000 Angkas drivers out of work, while newcomers Joyride and MoveIt seek to add to the 6,900 and 2,400 drivers they already have, respectively, as of January 6.
Marcos filed Senate Bill 409 at the start of the first pilot test in mid-2019, seeking to legalize and regulate motorcycles for hire as a safe, alternative means of transport for commuters caught in heavy traffic.
Unlike three other similar bills in the Senate, the Marcos bill provides local government units a means of generating revenue through their supervision of companies running motorcycle taxis.
Image credits: Roy Domingo