Senate passes bills seeking to legalize Angkas

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate Committee on Public Services on Friday approved the bills seeking to allow the operations of Angkas and other motorcycles to transport commuters.

"Angkas" riders, affected by the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) issued recently by the Supreme Court, hold a “unity ride” that hopes to air their grievances on the double plate issue and motortaxi oppression along EDSA, December 16, 2018 (RIO LEONELLE DELUVIO / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)
“Angkas” riders, affected by the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) issued  by the Supreme Court, hold a “unity ride” that hopes to air their grievances on the double plate issue and motortaxi oppression along EDSA, December 16, 2018 (RIO LEONELLE DELUVIO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

At the second and final hearing of proposals lifting the ban on two-wheeled vehicles from ferrying passengers, Senator Grace Poe, committee chairperson, moved to approve Senate Bill Nos. 2173 and 2180, which both seek to allow the use of motorcycles as public utility vehicles.

The bills, filed by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto and Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, respectively, propose the revision of the Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code which prohibits motorcycles-for-hire.

“Kinikilala natin na ito ay alternatibo at kailangan [ng publiko] papunta sa mga main hub…kaya ito ay ikinokonsidera natin (We recognize that motorcycles can be an alternative and are needed by the public in going to the main hubs…so we are considering it),” Poe said as she adjourned the public hearing on the issue, held in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.

Poe, during the hearing, said that there is a demand for motorcycles since it provides a “cheaper, faster and more comfortable” service amid the country’s road traffic problem.

She said the panel will then work to report out a final and consolidated version of the bills, hoping that it will be approved by the plenary before the end of the 17th Congress.

The House of Representatives had earlier approved a similar bill on third and final reading.

On the other hand, Poe stressed that while she favors an alternative and cheaper mode of transportation, motorcycle drivers should have proper trainings. Passengers, she added, should be covered by accident insurance.

The security and safety of commuters remain the “primary” concern, according to Poe, who conceded that motorcycles have an “inherent vulnerability” to accidents.

Sen. Nancy Binay, who was also at the hearing, said “safety will always be everyone’s paramount concern.”

“We are all here to find ways in addressing issues of providing an alternative mode to the commuting public, and at the same time, safely moving people from point-to-point,” Binay said.

Poe clarified that once the bill becomes a law, this does not give a blanket authorization to motorcycle owners to register to app-based motorcycle services.

The two reelectionist senators urged Department of Transportation (DOTr) to look at how many motorcycles should be given permits to operate as public transport vehicles.

The DOTr, during a House hearing last month, bared that it has approved to hold a “pilot run” for Angkas, wherein it will be allowed to operate in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu to assess whether or not they could be allowed to operate as PUVs.

Undersecretary Mark de Leon said that the planned pilot run of Angkas is being finalized by the DOTr technical working group but still is subject for approval by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Last November 2017, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) suspended the operations of Angkas for its supposed lack of a business permit and possible dangers to the commuting public.

Then the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court, in August 2018, granted Angkas’ petition for an injunction and allowed the app-based motorcycle-hailing firm to resume operation.

But on December 12, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the Mandaluyong RTC’s decision and favored the DOTr and LTFRB’s position that Angkas should secure a franchise before being able to ferry commuters.

Poe said she will wait for the DOTr’s full report on the viability of motorcycles for public transport, especially as regards passenger protection and safety aspect.