Despite regular follow-ups and requests for updates on urgent issues like the pilot run of a motorcycle taxi app, original members of the Technical Working Group (TWG) that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) previously convened were not included in recent discussions of the TWG on the fate of the pilot run of motorcycle taxis.
This has prompted the excluded TWG members to file a petition for Congress and the Senate to look into the irregularities surrounding the procedure in deciding on the pilot run and to call for transparency and inclusivity in the decision-making process.
The TWG recently convened several meetings on key issues such as updates on the pilot run and possible extension, as well as the entry of new players without consulting original stakeholders outside of the DOTr. Only the DOTr, the LTFRB, the Land Transportation Office (LTO), and the InterAgency Council for Traffic (IACT) have convened to decide on the said issues.
The lack of updates and proper consultation with stakeholders were the reasons the excluded TWG members filed a petition calling on Congress and the Senate, from which the original directives to conduct a technical working group assessment last year came, to look carefully into the matter and hasten the passage of a law legalizing and regulating motorcycle taxis.
The petition stated, “The TWG is supposed to monitor the safety of the riders and the riding public using data collected, by Angkas, within a six-month period. Despite repeated requests from the sector for the TWG to convene, a secret meeting was conducted, last November 2019, with solely government agencies in attendance, to make an assessment. Hence, the consumers, advocacy groups and other stakeholders, were excluded from decision-making. This prompted us to ask for updates from those who were present and pleaded that the complete TWG be convened in the future.”
In a press briefing Monday, transport and mobility advocates the Lawyers for Commuter Safety and Protection (LCSP), KOMYUT, LEADER, Move Metro Manila, and Transport Watch (TW) issued a joint statement decrying this irregularity.
Jason Salvador, Managing Director of the Legal Engagement Advocating for Development and Reform (LEADER), stated that lawmakers had enough time to act on the proposed motorcycle taxi legislation. “When we were doing the first TWG assessment, we were very strict about the parameters that needed to be met before any service can be done,” Salvador said.
“We even went to the sites of the proposed motorcycle taxi training area. Sumakay pa ako mismo sa motorcycle taxi para malaman ko mismo kung pwede ba talaga,” he added.
Also present in the press briefing was Atty. Victor Pablo Trinidad, Head Executive Assistant and FOI Decision Maker of the MMDA. He acknowledged the importance of the motorcycle taxi test run, saying that he wasn’t able to attend any TWG meeting as well because the invite for the meeting came just one day before the meeting date.
“The MMDA is one of the law enforcement agencies included in the TWG so it is in our best interest to find out what is happening in the test run,” Trinidad stressed. “We started out the TWG with strict parameters. We need parameters or else there would be problems with graft and corruption, which is a serious offense. Papasukin natin sila sa test run pero ayon sa parameters na ginamit namin nung umpisa at naaayon sa traffic. We must level the playing field,” he added.
Ariel Lim, adviser and consultant of the office of Senator Grace Poe and head of the transport advocacy group Usapang Transport Poe, stressed, “During the TWG, the office of Senator Poe questioned and clarified so many things about Angkas’ operations and recommended adjustments before we recommended the test run.”
“Nagtaka lang kami kung bakit ganito dahil ang talagang layon namin ay hindi maging maluwag sa pagbibigay ng approval ng motorcycle taxi,” Lim asked. “Parang negosyo na ata ang iniisip dito, hindi po ganon ang tingin ni Sen. Poe dahil buhay ang nakasalalay dito,” he added.
“No single agency can just decide on allowing others to join. Both congress and senate should approve,” Lim stressed.
In an earlier statement, Dr. Grace Jamon, convenor of Move Metro Manila, a group of policy advocates organizing policy discussions on mobility, stressed that their group's position is that they are urging Congress and Senate to deliberate the proposed bills legalizing motorcycle taxis. “In principle we agree with the need for the motorcycle taxi safety protocols to be extended to and applied to other motorcycle taxi service providers. Competition is good and should be a welcome development. We are just concerned with the process through which this decision was made without us having been called into a meeting at all,” said Dr. Jamon.
Toix Cerna, spokesperson of the commuters’ group KOMYUT, said in a previous interview, “Since August, we have been seeking for the TWG to be convened to discuss the initial data, and experience of Angkas, but to no avail.” Cerna added, “Our task was also to monitor and assess the results of the pilot so that we are informed of what to recommend for the legislative measures pending in Congress.”
Atty. Ariel Inton, Atty. Raymond Fortun, and Atty. VJ Topacio of the LCSP earlier filed a petition for injunction with application for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction against five motorcycle taxi companies, some of whom were included in the DOTr's list of new companies allowed to participate in the extension of the test run. The petition stated that their operations are unauthorized and may cause grave and substantial damage to the public.
Inton, a former LTFRB member, said that the LCSP’s main thrust is to promote commuter safety and uphold the rights of commuters, road users and pedestrians to a safe mode of transportation. As such, Inton stated, it has an absolute right to prevent respondents from organizing its fleet of motorcycles for hire and avert its operations which prejudice the riding public. Inton also revealed that they too have not been included in the recent meetings.
Topacio also stated in an earlier statement said, “It seems this exclusion from the recent decision-making process also involves many other critical members of the TWG and we are just wondering why this was the case.”
According to Topacio, because they were not included in the recent decision-making process they have not been able to hear from and coordinate with motorcycle taxi app Angkas. “We also need to coordinate with Angkas in order for us to find out their official data that was gathered during their six-month test run operations,” he stressed.
“We have requested an immediate restraining order to prevent grave and irreparable damage to the riding public in general, and to the pilot program in particular,” stressed Atty. Raymond Fortun of LCSP. “Moreover, any accident during this critical period will also sabotage the pilot program.”
Inton, Cerna, Jamon and the rest of the excluded TWG members are asking for greater transparency in the TWG’s procedures and asking Congress and Senate to intervene in this regard. “Transparency in the decision-making process of the TWG is very important so that the decisions do not look suspect,” noted Dr. Jamon. “It is very curious that at this crucial stage in the TWG, non-government members were completely sidelined,” he added.