By Alexandria San Juan
While motorcycle taxis are still not allowed to go back on the road due to physical distancing issues, bike-hailing firm Angkas has set up innovative health and safety guidelines to mitigate the transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on bikes-for-hire.
Angkas chief George Royeca said on Friday that they already submitted their proposed health and safety protocol to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in the hope of helping the government initiate further studies to enhance the safety of motorcycle taxi services.
“Naiintindihan natin na mayroon tayong social distancing requirement and kung titingnan natin ang motorsiklo, there’s a clear violation kasi talagang malapit ang pasahero sa driver (We understand that we have a social distancing requirement and if you carefully study the motorcycle, there is really a clear violation as drivers and passengers are very close to each other),” Royeca said in a virtual press briefing.
“But we have seen that all over the world everyone is trying to provide certain solutions on how we can remedy the situation and really see if we can use whatever means necessary to make it possible for a driver and passenger to be in a motorcycle while reducing the potential transmission of the virus,” he explained.
On top of Angkas’ proposed safety protocol is a protective plastic shield to separate bikers and passengers.
The backpack shield, as shown by Royeca during the briefing, will be worn by the partner-bikers and will serve as a non-permeable barrier to curb transmission of COVID-19. It is made of lightweight, high-density plastic, to give the passenger a clear view of the road ahead.
Royeca pointed out that the shield will help mitigate virus transmission as it adds an extra layer of protection that will complement other safety measures such as the wearing of a helmet with a face shield and a mask, and the sanitizing of hands.
“We hope to work with the IATF and the Department of Health (DOH) to monitor the results and eventually recommend guidelines that can be adopted by both private motorcycles and motorcycle taxis alike. If the design is approved by the government and the medical experts, we commit to make the final shield design mold for free to the public,” Royeca assured.
Should Angkas be allowed to ferry passengers again, Royeca added that passengers will have to use their own helmets and face masks to limit contact.
Aside from these requirements, the Angkas official said that they are also studying the possibility of having all of their bikers undergo regular COVID-19 testing.
Also part of Angkas’ proposal is to make motorcycle taxis similar to a shuttle service with pre-registered passengers for select companies in a bid to ensure “strict contact tracing” for those who might test positive for the virus in the future.
Quezon City representative Precious Castelo has been urging the IATF to allow bikes-for-hire to operate again to help ease the transport problem of workers returning to their jobs as lockdown restrictions eased.
Castelo, who is the vice chair of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, noted that motorcycle taxis can resume its operations provided that there will be a plastic shield that would separate the driver and passenger to limit contact and in compliance with the physical distancing protocol.
“There’s a strong public clamor for us to allow the operation of motorcycle taxis, not only for the benefit of the riders who need to get back their livelihood but most especially for the commuting public, the working class,” Castelo said during the same briefing on Friday.
(Photos from Angkas)