Millions of once-sidelined motorcycle riders in the Philippines have become potentially important players in the growth of the economy. This is now being more visible as cities, once forced to a standstill by the spread of COVID-19, are slowly opening up, with mobility and transport sectors leading the way. In this nationwide transportation revolution pushed by Angkas Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca, his biker-partners who form the core of his pioneering motorcycle ride-hailing app-based company, now serve as a bellwether of mobility for the country, where gridlock is one of the worst in the world and mass public transportation is limited.
To address the horrendous traffic congestion that is costing the Philippines P2.4 billion every day, Royeca and his team have been tirelessly pushing for the legitimization of the once-stigmatized motorcycle taxi riders. Recognizing the importance of efficient urban mobility in the country’s economic growth, Royeca has come against a series of regulatory roadblocks and legal tussles to reverse the negative stance of motorcycle taxis as a mode of public transportation. His team’s unwearied efforts have charted the course towards smart regulations for motorcycle taxis. Royeca is now working hand in hand with an inter-agency body studying the viability of a new public transport category for two-wheeled vehicles.
His disruptive nationwide movement did not only provide commuters an alternative solution to traffic woes but also gave motorcycle taxi riders the opportunity to provide comfortably for their family. While the minimum wage in the NCR is P500 a day, Angkas riders can pull in P1,500 a day or three times that much on an average day.
Teching up, reskilling biker-partners
The journey to becoming a biker-partner is not an easy feat. Royeca invested in training his biker-partners in hands-on, practical programs that taught road safety; the right use of the motorbike and its equipment; compliance with traffic rules and regulations; and the application of a passenger-centric platform that makes commuting in the metro easy and convenient.
In a bid to tech up motorcycle riders, Royeca opened up his training program for free with those who pass given the opportunity to become Angkas bikers. About 100,000 bikers have taken the course, but only 30,000 of them have been accepted and deployed. As a testament to Royeca’s and his team’s non-compromising stand on quality control, Angkas boasts a 99.997% safety rate which has won over even the most skeptical.
Safe public transport through innovation
But as the road to legitimizing motorcycle taxis is becoming clearer, Royeca’s team has experienced its most challenging year so far: 2020, the period transportation almost died. Quick on his toes, Royeca knew early on that restoring faith in mass transportation is critical to any economic rebound. His first course of action was to reassure public transport users of safety and demonstrate clean and safe public transport. Cashless payments, a 24/7 contact service, an integrated health declaration form, and a streamlined contact-tracing application were just some of the first measures Royeca and his team implemented to help revive mobility in the country.
Tirelessly campaigning for the return of public transportation and biker-partners on the road, Royeca tapped Total Control, a US-based motorcycle safety firm of the US Army and Marine Corps, for the safe design for a protective shield that lessened the chances of virus transmission. The prototype that his team developed was the first protective shield approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force and became the standard for all motorcycle taxi service providers in the country. Royeca and his team also required passengers to bring their own helmet with full-face visor and lock to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
Backing these safety measures for bike-sharing is the University of the Philippines College of Public Health, which Royeca and his team tapped for a study recommending safe mobility measures in the time of the pandemic. Royeca encouraged the public to adopt those same measures as a lifestyle by co-leading the launch of the Ingat Angat Tayong Lahat communications campaign, which gathered the largest alliance of brands and conglomerates that aimed to restore consumer confidence. Royeca also joined the government’s T3 (Trace, Treat, Test) program, aimed at building a more resilient Philippines as the country recovers from the pandemic.
While Angkas has only about 30,000 biker-partners in its platform, about 18 million more motorcycle owners will soon have a bigger opportunity to help the economy recover and sustain growth once smart regulations are in place. Recognizing his keen efforts to promote urban mobility in the country, Royeca was recently named as one of the seven honorees of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) for 2020. The TOYM award acknowledged how Royeca and his team helped resolve mass transport systems in the country and promote professionalism and dignity among the so-called “habal-habal” drivers.