Moving forward on motorcycle taxis

"The future looks good."


Last week was a big week for motorcycle taxis. Watershed hearings were conducted in the Senate and the House of Representatives, followed by the convening of the Technical Working Group that is conducting a study of this mode of public transportation. I was a resource person in the Senate hearing presided over by Senator Grace Poe of the Committee on Public Services. I was also invited to attend the hearing conducted by the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation chaired by Rep. Edgar Sarmiento even as I was not able to attend it.

Both hearings in Congress went well; the message of the senators and representatives attending ringing loud and clear—complete the study and pilot program and come back with clear recommendations on how to proceed with legalizing motorcycle taxis in a way that would ensure public safety.

The Technical Working Group, chaired by Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board board member Antonio Gardiola Jr., immediately went back to work, inviting observers like me back to the process and correcting the mistake of making unilateral decisions on a cap on riders, etc. With the process back on track, I am hopeful this will result in good outcomes in the next few months.

Some argue that motorcycle taxis are prohibited by law. I disagree. In an article I published in Rappler with my colleague Yla Paras, we noted that there is enough ambiguity in the law that allows for a provisional framework in regulating motorcycle taxis. A similar approach was used in dealing with Uber and Grab when they began operating in the Philippines. Even without a law, the LTFRB established a system to regulate Transportation Network Companies and Transportation Network Vehicle Services that continues to be the regulatory framework for that type of service today.

The reality is that motorcycle taxis have become the most viable option for segments of the riding public seeking out a good, reliable, and (relatively) inexpensive transport system. Two years ago, I discovered this when many of my PUP law students told me that Angkas was their main mode of transportation. Nowadays, students and commuters of all economic classes use motorcycle taxis. Just go to any mall and office building and one will see that the genie is out of the bottle.

Yla and I pointed out also how motorcycle taxi riders view motorcycles as a more convenient form of transportation because they are allowed to reach their destination on time beating traffic and are cheaper than taking a cab or Grab (making it more embraceable to the riding masses).

Motorcycle taxis also allow riders to be transported to bus, train, or jeepney stops more conveniently and ‘safely’, as pedestrian accommodations are not always friendly. It is also fuel-efficient, with an average consumption of 60 km per liter of gasoline, leaving less carbon footprint.

Motorcycles also allow for faster travel time because of their ability to split lanes and go through narrower spaces beating traffic in record time. This reduces risks of losses in terms of income and productivity.

In the interim, as we wait for the promise of mass transport and proper infrastructure that can ease our daily commute and make inclusive mobility a reality, the legalization of motorcycle taxis is a pathway forward.

A strong regulatory framework, one enforced with consistency, is however essential to make motorcycle taxis a safe form of transport. There must be better infrastructure in terms of providing proper motorcycle lanes (where motorcycles do not merge with other vehicles, especially bulkier ones) and an effective oversight arrangement for registration, monitoring, control of vehicle fleet, and safety standards for roads and products.

It goes without saying that whether it is cars or motorcycles, environmental considerations must be prioritized.

In any case, it is good that we are moving forward now on motorcycle taxis. I am grateful to Senator Poe and Representative Sarmiento for their leadership. I am also appreciative of the interventions of Senators Bong Go, Imee Marcos, Ralph Recto, Koko Pimentel, and Win Gatchalian, and Joel Villanueva. I thought their comments in the Senate hearing were really helpful.

I am also grateful for the attitude of the three TNCs—Angkas, JoyRide and Move It—allowed to participate in the pilot program. I found all of them transparent, respectful, and professional in their dealings with government.

I would like to particularly highlight Angeline Tham of Angkas. I know Angeline, have talked to her many times because of my interest in inclusive mobility. She is a visionary and has the common good only as her motivation. She is fully integrated with Angkas riders, respects them and is in turn respected by them. And yes she loves the Philippines—and not just because she is married to a Filipino but she genuinely likes us.

The Department of Transport and in particular the LTFRB are of course at the center of this issue, being the regulator. I appreciate the openness of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to new mobility options. I am grateful to General Gardiola—a humble, competent public official that simply wants to do the right thing for the public.

Finally, I am happy to work again with LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra, a close friend for 40 years, my batchmate in the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines, and one of the most incorruptible public officials under this and any administration. We sometimes disagree on policy options and legal interpretation but that has never affected our friendship and complete trust in each other.

With the leadership of Tugade, Delgra, and Gardiola, the political guidance of Poe and Sarmiento, and the vision and commitment to public interest of entrepreneurs like Angkas founders Tham and George Royeca, and the participation of road safety, commuter, and environmental groups, the future looks good for motorcycle taxis.

Facebook: Dean Tony La Vina Twitter: tonylavs

Topics: motorcycle taxis , House of Representatives Committee on Transportation , Grace Poe , Joel Villanueva , Angkas , JoyRide , Move It , Bong Go , Transportation Network Vehicle Services
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