By Ellson Quismorio
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is in the final stages of finalizing the draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of a proposed law that would legalize motorcycle taxis, such as "Angkas", in the country, House of Representatives members learned.
(Angkas Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
DOTr Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Mark de Leon shared this information during the Committee on Metro Manila Development hearing Monday.
"Now we're already planning for the third TWG (technical working group) meeting to finalize the draft IRR and including the proposal of the Committee on Metro Manila Development to have a pilot. We're at that stage already," De Leon told the panel chaired by Quezon City 2nd district Rep. Winston Castelo.
Castelo authored House Bill (HB) 8959, which aims to amend Republic Act (RA) 4136, otherwise known as the Land Transportation and Traffic Code. Section 7 of the law only allows vehicles with four wheels or more to be used as public transportation, therefore excluding motorcycle.
Although it has already been passed on third and final reading in the House, the measure has yet to progress in the Senate.
"Medyo kailangan lang i-refine yung mga clauses dun (Some clauses there just need to be refined)... it will take one or two days to finalize that IRR which we will submit to Secretary Tugade for possible approval and adoption," De Leon told congressmen.
"The DOTr is anticipating it (finalization of IRR). Kapag pumasa man yung law, andyan na agad, ready na agad yung ating IRR (If ever the law is approved, we'll have an IRR on the ready)," he said. A law needs an IRR for it to be implementable.
Solons at the hearing took De Leon's statement on the impending finalization of the IRR draft as tantamount to the DOTr concurring with the spirit of HB 8959, or at least pilot-testing Angkas and similar phone-app based motorcycle taxis.
Manila 5th district Rep. Cristal Bagatsing asked De Leon how Tugade felt about the proposed pilot-testing, which is expected to give relief to thousands of Angkas drivers and commuters alike.
"Lagi akong tinatanong ng aking mga kababayan sa Maynila kung kailan ba magiging legal ang Angkas dahil iyon lang ang kanilang hanapbuhay. Ano ba kailangan naming gawin para mapabilis ang lahat? Kailangan ba namin tawagan si Secretary Tugade?" she asked.
(My constituents in Manila always ask me when will Angkas be legalized since that is their livelihood. What do we need to do to expedite it? Do we need to call Secretary Tugade?)
De Leon replied that as per Tugade, the pilot-testing "could be part of the output of the TWG." He further claimed that the DOTr's timeline as far as legalIzing motorcycle taxis is concerned is "still on track."
Castelo slams DOTr
But Castelo expressed disappointment over how the DOTr has been complicating the legalization of motorcycle taxis, saying that by comparison, car-based transport network companies (TNC) like Grab had it easy with the agency when they were having similar troubles.
"It really amazes me why an office that is supposed to provide mass transportation, kayo pa ang nagpapahirap (you are the ones making it difficult)," he said.
"Number one, Congress (House) has already approved a bill. Saglit na lang with (It will only take a while with the Senate). Number two, there's already a precedent. You did it with Grab and Uber. The same naman yun (It's the same)...you issued a Department Order. Third...the HPG (Highway Patrol Group) itself has said that there was zero accidents during the six-month operation of Angkas," he explained.
"Practically it is very effective. You would not deny that. So I hope you would see the light. How much will the people sacrifice? You have a chance to relieve them...but you refuse to do it," Castelo added.
Angkas voluntarily suspended its operations in 2017 after these were branded as illegal by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). The Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court (RTC) then issued in September 2018 a preliminary injunction allowing the motorcycle ride-hailing service to resume its operations.
Last December 8, the Supreme Court (SC) handed down a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the RTC's preliminary injunction. The LTFRB has since been going after Angkas drivers who continue to ferry passengers on roads.