Motorcycle taxis, patrons happy as operations continue

Published January 22, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio 

All is well that ends well as far as motorcycle taxis and their patrons are concerned.

On a vote of 261 to 18, the Senate and the House of Representatives decide to extend martial law in Mindanao up to December 31, 2017 in a joint, special session at the Batasang Pambansa yesterday. Inset photo shows Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III (left) and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez presiding over the session that lasted more than seven hours. (Jansen Romero, Alvin Kasiban)
House of the Representatives (Manila Bulletin File Photo)

The House Committee on Transportation chaired by Samar 1st district Rep. Edgar Sarmiento announced on Wednesday the end of the impasse regarding the operation of popular motorcycle taxi services, as authorities agreed to increase the cap on the number of riders as well as the expansion of the pilot testing area to Visayas and Mindanao.

Much of the groundwork for this breakthrough was laid down during a meeting Tuesday between Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade and representatives of motorcycle taxi companies Angkas, Move It, and JoyRide.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) board member Antonio Gardiola Jr., who last Monday said that motorcycles-for-hire will be declared “illegal” starting next week, also attended that meeting. He sang a different tune Wednesday following the Transportation panel hearing.

“I just want to relay what the Secretary said yesterday. Yung study po natin hanggang March 23, but still he is very open, he is very open to adjusting it or extending it [both the conduct of the study and the motorcycle taxi operations],” Gardiola said, revealing a very lenient set-up for the three companies moving forward.

He said the original 30,000 cap (10,000 for each company) will be raised to 45,000 (15,000 each) in Metro Manila, pilot area for Luzon. Moreover, Cebu will now serve as the pilot area for Visayas, while Cagayan de Oro will be the same for Mindanao.

Gardiola said the total nationwide cap will now be 63,000, as approved by Tugade.

Sarmiento said that this number can even increase if needed to accommodate other riders for other service providers such as Joyride.

“The number is now irrelevant. Kailangan talaga, lahat ng mananakay, kung kailangan, ibigay muna natin sa kanila. Huwag na natin pigilan ang numero. Mahirap na pag pigilin natin, alam naman natin ang dahilan. Napakasikip ng kalsada, ang motorsiklo na lang ang pinakamadaling sakyan (Let’s give what the commuters need. Let’s not put a limit on the number. It’s hard to limit it, why know why. The roads are cramped, and motorcycles are the easiest alternative),” said the House panel chairman.

As part of the compromise stemming for from its “harmonious” discussion with DOTr Tuesday, Angkas agreed to drop all cases that it filed against the LTFRB.

“Everybody wants to make it work for the riding community…We need to have a good study para ma-guide po yung mga mambabatas natin na gumawa ng tamang batas para sa mga motorcycle taxi (We need to have a good study in order to guide our lawmakers in crafting the correct law for motorcycle taxis),” Angkas chief transport advocate George Royeca told reporters.

“The agreement to continue the test run that Angkas and the two other players struck with the DOTr, the LTFRB, and the TWG is an important win for the Philippines, particularly for the commuters and the bikers of all three motorcycle taxi companies,” he added.

The study will now be conducted hand-in-hand by technical working groups (TWGs) of the LTFRB and the House Transportation panel, with the “soft” deadline set on March 23, 2020.

“Congress is extending its hand by creating a TWG, malaking tulong po iyan sa pag-aaral namin (that is a big help in our study),” Gardiola said.

No arrests please 

Sarmiento pleaded to traffic authorities to refrain from arresting motorcycle taxi riders until such time that there’s a implementable law governing the relatively new sector.

“Kailangan as of the moment na wala pang batas, huwag na muna [manghuli]. Nakikiusap tayo. Syempre hinihintay talaga natin yung report ng TWG but we want to make sure na pagka-submit nila, bibilisan na natin ang proseso ng paggawa ng batas (It’s necessary that no arrests would be made while there’s as yet no law. This is our request. Of course we are really anticipating the TWG report but we want to make sure that we can act swiftly on the law once they submit it),” he explained.

He also thanked Tugade for holding the key meeting with the stakeholders.

Asked about his change of heart regarding the motorcycle taxi issue, Gardiola said: “We are considering all sentiments and recommendations. Even the blacklisting of Angkas is already a closed book.” In the end, he asked the companies to ensure utmost safety of the commuters.

For his part, Royeca thanked Tugade, Sarmiento, and the senators–most especially Senator Bong Go–for bringing the matter to the President and recommending the continuation of the pilot test run.

“This is democracy at work. Everybody stepped in, courts were involved, the secretary, the executive branch, General Gardiola, and the other players in the private sector. So now, everybody’s working hand in hand. I think this is a testament to the success of the democratic process. We’re very happy with the result. Our focus right now is to continue working with the government to make the pilot a success,” he added.

Meanwhile, House members who attended the public hearing welcomed the positive developments.

“I’m happy that this problem has been resolved. Definitely, I’ll be very active in the discussions both TWGs in order to make sure that all  aspects of legislation are properly and adequately covered,” Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said.

He noted that this should calm the thousands of riders and commuters who were restless following LTFRB’s announcement that it would terminate the operation of motorcycle taxis.

“This is a good development for commuters so that motor taxis can continue to operate as government tries to solve the mass transportation and traffic crisis in the country,” said House Senior Minority Leader, Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate.

Read more: TWG head says they won’t halt motorcycle taxi study