House committee asks Covid-19 TFs to allow TNVS units on roads

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TO augment the current transport capacity, the House Committee on Transportation has urged the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the National Task Force (NTF) on Covid-19 to allow the resumption of the operations of transport network vehicle service (TNVS), including motorcycle taxis.

During the recent hearing of the committee, Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo filed the motion asking the IATF and NTF to allow TNVS operators to resume business.

She said allowing these TNVS units on the road will provide additional public transportation to commuters, especially those who still need to go to work amid the pandemic.

Castelo also asked the national government to look into allowing tricycles to ferry one additional passenger to help double capacity and cut costs.

“As long as we can implement the relevant public health measures as advised by our partner-experts, the motorcycle taxis and more passengers on tricycles will go a long way towards augmenting our current transport capacity, which has become the key bottleneck to reviving our economy,” she said.

Pilot study

Meanwhile, the transportation committee also passed the motion of Manila Rep. Cristal Bagatsing for Congress to spearhead the evaluation of the pilot study of motorcycle taxis.

“The TWG [technical working group] has done good work so far in reviewing motorcycle taxi-safety during the pilot,” Bagatsing said. “Our added involvement will ensure we round out the study before we draft the final bill by examining issues of pricing, supply pools and taxation.”

Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda has moved to include members of the academe and private sector to help the proper formulation of relevant measures, particularly related to public health in the context of the pandemic.

“Upon hearing Doctor [Vicente] Belizario’s presentation from the UP College of Health, I would like to reiterate my motion in collaboration with experts and with respect to oversight of authorities in power, move for the approval of the extension of testing of motorcycle taxi study in Metro Manila and selected areas under the supervision of IATF and NTF,” Baronda said.

She was referring to the collaborative study made by Angkas in partnership with the University of the Philippines on public health safety protocols for motorcycle taxi.

Back on track

According to Belizario, “motorcycle taxis operate in open ventilation with one passenger only, which makes them very good candidates to help get our economy’s transport system back on track.

“In reference to the proposed measures we gave Angkas, there is no 100-percent guarantee that this will work; but the more measures you add, the safer you get, so we are cautiously optimistic about this,” the physician added. “These are definitely worth taking calculated risks with to augment our transport system.”

Belizario was referring not just to the recently IATF-approved motorcycle barrier, but also a host of other protocols’passengers and drivers wearing their own personal helmets and masks, regular disinfection protocols, fleet-wide PCR [Polymerase chain reaction] testing, in-app public health education and information dissemination and using the platform’s already-extensive network of over 4 million downloads for contact tracing.

George Royeca, Angkas chief transport advocate, presented the specifications of the IATF-approved shield, which was given the seal of approval of a motorcycle safety school based in California, United States.

Royeca said he shares the public’s concerns on the shield’s impact on road safety, which was why he said his company “spent months designing and prototyping it with Total Control to ensure its roadworthiness.”

Shield, app

According to Royeca, the shield is made of high-quality plastics, weighs less than 1 kilogram for all-day usage and comfort and is extremely pliable and shatter-resistant.

“Our shield was also specifically designed and repeatedly field-tested to be aerodynamic in conditions our bikers usually operate in,” he added.

Royeca told lawmakers the shield is only one tool in a suite of many to ensure high standards for public health and road safety, and that Angkas has been working with UP CPH since the beginning to ensure operations factor in all the relevant recommendations for public health.

“All our bikers are being retrained with proper public health protocols, and we are working with partners to help passengers purchase their own quality helmets,” Royeca said.

He added their mobile app will soon become “cashless to minimize face-to-face interactions.”

“It will now also serve as a platform for public health education, information dissemination, and contact tracing,” Royeca said.

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