The House Committee on Transportation called on the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID)on Wednesday (August 19) to allow motorcycle taxis to operate in order to ease the burden of the commuting public.
As the government has placed the Metro Manila and other areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), the House panel said that stricter enforcement of health and safety protocols would help minimize the threat of COVID-19 transmission while enabling people to work as businesses have been allowed to reopen.
Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento said, “The panel sees the importance of providing accessible public transport now that we are back to GCQ and many members of the committee feel that our motorcycle taxis could fill the gap on our prevailing transportation vacuum due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During its virtual motu proprio probe on land transportation policies concerning the back-riding and motorcycle taxi operations on July 30 , the Sarmiento panel approved the motion made by Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo that the operation of the motorcycle taxis be allowed.
This would help the government augment the public transport system, respond to the needs of the commuting public, and allow owners of motorcycle taxis to reclaim their means of livelihood.
Sarmiento explained that they did not immediately endorse the recommendation to the DoTr and the IATF-EID when President Duterte decided to place the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from August 4 to 18, 2020. Under the MECQ, all modes of public transportation are prohibited.
"Riders must be well covered from head-to-toe apart from the use of the shields previously required by the IATF-EID. Passenger helmets must be disinfected after each use and must be also equipped with replaceable head covers,” he said.
He said the use of face shield should also be required, and that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests should be first conducted among the riders before they can be activated to ensure that they are COVID-free.
Passengers, on the other hand, should be required to fill up an online contact-tracing form before they are allowed to book a ride, Sarmiento said.
He said his panel pushed for the use of the motorcycle taxis because it has a lesser risk of multiple transmission.
Since one motorcycle can only accommodate one passenger, it is also easier to conduct contact tracing because all bookings are automatically logged into the system of the ride-hailing mobile app, the House explained.
Navotas lone District Rep. John Reynald Tiangco heads the TWG, which was created by the House panel last January to thresh out the issues concerning the motorcycle taxi operations.
During its virtual hearing last July 30, the Sarmiento panel 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.
The Department of Transportation’s TWG had submitted to the Transportation panel its report on pilot testing, which lapsed on March 23.
It has been noted that operations of motorcycle taxis were stopped ahead of the expiration of the pilot tests following the government’s imposition of enhanced community quarantine all over Luzon on March 17.