UP-NIH says use of helmets, face shields protect riders
The chairman of the House Committee on Transportation has given the green light to its technical working group (TWG) to convene and jumpstart the deliberation on the proposed resumption of the operations of motorcycle taxis, and the measures seeking to legalize the operations of the two-wheel vehicles.
This was the guidance given by Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento to Navotas lone District Rep. John Reynald Tiangco during his panel’s recent virtual motu proprio probe on land transportation policies concerning the back-riding and motorcycle taxi operations.
Tiangco heads the TWG, which was created by the House panel last January to thresh out the issues concerning the motorcycle taxi operations.
Sarmiento approved the motion made by Manila 5th District Rep. Cristal Bagatsing for Congress to “spearhead the evaluation of the pilot study of motorcycle taxis”, along with other government agencies sitting at the TWG that earlier conducted pilot tests on motorcycle taxis.
Bagatsing laments that the TWG’s report on pilot testing “is lacking and seems to be rushed.”
LTO Chief Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante admitted that the report is “somewhat lacking”, explaining that some activities that were supposed to have been conducted have not been conducted at all because of the pandemic.
The LTO official said the TWG focuses on the aspect of “safety evaluation” and not on the economic viability of the motorcycle.
The Sarmiento panel called on Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and National Task Force (NTF) Against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to allow ride sharing or motorcycle taxis to operate, provided that the riders and drivers strictly follow heath protocols as sought by Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo.
Castelo said by allowing the operation of the motorcycle taxis, the government will be able to augment its public transport system and respond to the transportation needs of the commuting public.
The Sarmiento panel also decided to adopt the motion made by Iloilo City lone District Rep. Julienne “Jam” Baronda calling on the DOTr’s TWG to extend its pilot tests for motorcycle taxis, which lapsed on March 23.
During the hearing, Dr. Vicente “Jun” Belizario of the the University of the Philippines College of Public Health (UP-CPH) said they have been asked by motorcycle ride-hailing service Angkas to provide technical support to develop guidelines promoting health and safety in motorcycle taxi operations during the time of COVID-19 and the new normal.
“The guidelines that we have drafted are consistent with policies and protocols coming from international organisations— WHO (World Health Organisation), US Center for Disease Control and Prevention,” he said, citing that they also strongly considered the recommendations made by the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the DOTr.
Citing the study published in The Lancet, he said the chance of COVID-19 transmission is reduced if masks or respirators are worn, and the helmets may also function as face shields, thus not only reducing the risk of injuries, but importantly, increasing protection also from possible air droplet transmission.
He said while, the use of the so-called barriers or shields provides an additional layer of protection, there should be “additional studies” on the potential role of barriers or the shield in preventing COVID-19 transmission in motorcycle back-riding.
Citing the study published in The Lancet, Belizario also stressed that that with poor ventilation, you have increased the risk of respiratory infection, including COVID-19.
He said for the control and prevention COVID-19, it is important to impose “diligent use” of a combination of proven measures or layers of protection.
There must be heightened awareness among the public, internal and external monitoring by private company and government officials, and collaboration is needed more than ever to promote health and safety in the transport sector, Belizario stressed.
During the hearing, George Royeca, Angkas Chief Transport Advocate, noted that they engaged the services of the Total Control, a motorcycle safety firm in the United States for the last 30 years, to design the shield “to make it very light weight and aerodynamic” and ensure its roadworthiness.
“The weight of this shield is less than 1 kg so it does not hamper the operations of the motorcycle. Dito po nakalagay (It was indicated here), (the speed was) up to 30 to 40 kph na meron po syang sakay sa likod (and there was a backrider) , she felt almost no wind drag and she was able to manage it well with the driver leaning in to the turns because wala pong metal barrier na nakasagabal (there was no metal barrier) in between them, and then he brought it out to C-5, all the way up to 90 kph and based from his testimony, there was turbulence but not enough be able to throw them off balance, it still maintain the stability,” he said, as he presented the specifications of the Angkas shield, which was approved by the IATF, apart from the prototype of Bohol Governor Arthur Yap.
He told the lawmakers that their designed shield “doesn’t break and (is) malleable.”