The Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, more commonly known as EDSA, is actually a short road at 23.8 kilometers. Putting it side by side with other major thoroughfares in the Philippines, it is tremendously dwarfed by the Pan-Philippine Highway, the country’s longest at 3,517 kilometers, or even by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway at 93.77 kilometers. With a vehicle running at 40 kilometers per hour, one can traverse EDSA end-to-end in just 30 minutes.
That was in an ideal world. Unfortunately, in the real world, traveling EDSA end-to-end can last up to three hours. EDSA today has become a symbol of a monstrous traffic problem in Metro Manila valued at more than P3.5 billion a day, debilitating the lives of people passing through it day in, day out.
Nevertheless, as the traffic congestion experienced in Metro Manila and other key cities in the country is not enough to kill people by itself, many are still surviving to tell the tale of their own bad traffic experiences.
“We had one passenger, a single mom, who was working in Ortigas and living in Antipolo,” George Royeca, the Regulatory and Public Affairs Head of Angkas, begins. “Before Angkas, she used to wake up as early as 4 AM to get to work on time at 9 AM, if she’s lucky, or 9:30 AM, in which she gets a deduction for being late. Then she leaves work at 7 PM and arrives home at 11 PM.”
“Just imagine her life. It’s like being an OFW in your own home—not having enough time for her family because she spends so many useless hours in traffic jams,” Royeca continues. “This is how debilitating the traffic in the metro is and it really makes life more difficult, less productive, and less livable,” he adds.
The problem of traffic congestion is not exclusive to the Philippines, but other countries in Southeast Asia, like Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, have a smoother flow. A common denominator among these countries is the dominant presence of motorcycles, leading to the birth of the motorcycle taxi as an additional mode of transportation. Like these countries, the Philippines is, in fact, a motorcycle country but this has been understated.
“A lot of people do not know that there are over 18 million motorcycles in this country versus three million cars,” Royeca shares. “An SWS Survey showed that one in three households own a motorcycle, with most citing the vehicle as the family’s critical mode of daily transport and as many as 51 percent depending on it for their livelihoods.”
Royeca, as well as Angkas CEO Angeline Tham, knew that motorcycles could offer an alternative mode of transportation for people from different walks of life, regardless of social status. “We created Angkas to make the lives of millions of Filipinos everywhere a little bit easier by allowing them to beat the traffic and get to their destinations in half the time and half the cost,” Royeca shares.
Apart from introducing an additional mode of transportation for Filipino commuters, Angkas also helps in transforming mindsets by advocating road safety through training.
“There are 18 million motorcycles in the country, but many of the riders have not received any form of training on the proper and safe way to ride motorcycles,” Royeca stresses.
Royeca cited a World Health Organization (WHO) report which showed that some 53% of deaths from vehicle accidents in the Philippines were of riders or passengers of two- or three-wheeled vehicles. “The more important thing about that statistic is that 90% of those who died did not wear helmets, which are, to bikers educated in motorcycle safety, an integral part of their riding attire,” Royeca stresses. “In Angkas, we aim to professionalize the motorcycle taxi service where everyone is trained and wears the proper safety gear,” he adds.
“The safety of our passengers is our main priority in Angkas and we have worked tirelessly to ensure that all the bikers applying to join us—even those we eventually reject—get free and ample training and professional instruction from some of the best teachers in the country,” Royeca reveals. “This helps ensure a better and safer riding experience for those booking Angkas rides, as our 99.997% safety record can prove.”
Royeca hopes that Angkas will become a model for other people and they are currently working with the government on how we can make their safety training a part of the system. “That’s what really excites me. We are helping in changing the lives and mindsets of our countrymen,” he adds.
As important as helping in resolving bad traffic by providing an alternative and educating both motorcycle riders and passengers is the positive change in the livelihood of its riders brought about by Angkas’ transformative technology.
Through Angkas, part-time drivers can earn up to 800 pesos a day, and full-time drivers can earn up to 1,500 pesos a day, which is three times the minimum wage. “Our biker-partners have become entrepreneurs in their own right,” Royeca notes. “They own their time, they don’t have a boss, and they can spend more time with their family.”
“Apart from this, we want to destigmatize motorcycles and remove the perception that they are inherently unsafe. We would like to see more Filipinos see the motorcycle as a legitimate form of transport, and we can only do this if we keep doing the work to train our biker-partners on every single safety measure we deem necessary,” Royeca concludes.