ALL is well in the government’s pilot run of motorcycle-for-hires as an alternative mode of public transportation in Metro Manila.
A few hours after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced it has decided to declare as illegal the operation of motorcycle taxis and imposing a ban on them starting next week, transport regulators were prevailed upon by senators to reverse their decision.
Early Monday morning, before attending a Senate committee hearing proposing the regulation of motorcycle-for-hires, LTFRB board member and Technical Working Group head Antonio Gardiola Jr. told reporters that motorcycle-hailing rides will be considered illegal and impounded starting next week.
Gardiola said Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade has “favorably endorsed” to Congress the TWG’s recommendation to terminate the on-going pilot run for motorcycle taxis and the study being prepared on the operation of the alternative transportation mode.
The announcement drew flak from senators during the hearing, with Senate committee members reprimanding the TWG and the LTFRB for its one-sided decision.
Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go went as far as telling the LTFRB and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) that he will ask President Duterte to order the continuation of operation of motorcycle-for-hires and the extension of the pilot run.
“I will recommend to the President and to Sec. Tugade the extension of the pilot program for motorcycle taxis provided that they will abide and care for the safety of the passengers,” Go said during the hearing.
By the end of the hearing, Go said he was able to prevail on Tugade and LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra.
“Pumayag naman po si Sec. Art Tugade, si Chairman Delgra at maging ang TWG. So, hindi tuloy ang hulihan, ‘yan ang pakiusap ko at irerekomenda sa ating Pangulo (Sec. Tugade, chairman Delgra and TWG members agreed to my request [to delay the arrests.] So, the arrest of motorcycle taxi drivers will not push through),” he said.
Go lamented that “nagkakapikunan kasi ang Angkas at ang TWG (They are [Angkas and TWG] getting hot-headed and pissed off with each other),” he said.
In deciding to declare motorcycle-for-hires as illegal, Gardiola cited the move of Angkas operators to legally challenge the conduct of the pilot run and the study.
“They filed a case to impede the conduct of our study. We cannot gather data because of the actions taken by one of the players. It is better to terminate the study,” Gardiola said.
With the termination of the study, he said the operation of all motorcycle-for-hires will be now deemed illegal. “So, maybe a week from now we will start the enforcement,” he added.
Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, chided the TWG’s decision.
“Napasubo sila sa amin ngayon dahil gagawa sila ng desisyon na sususpendihin nila ‘yung pilot program tapos huhulihin nila ang mga riders pero wala silang alternatibo. Ano ang alternatibo nila? (They were left holding an empty bag here because they made a decision to suspend the pilot program and arrest the riders, but they do not have any alternative. What is their alternative proposal?),” Poe said.
She likewise noted there was no consultation done before the TWG made its decision.
“Walang konsultasyon, at pangalawa ano ba ang alternatibo? Nasa batas na pwede naman ang DoTr magbigay ng order habang dinidinig pa ito sa Senado (There was no public consultation, and they do not have an alternative proposal. The DOTr has the authority to come up with proposals while the issue is being tackled in the Senate),” she said.
Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also slammed the TWG’s move as he expressed belief that such a decision appeared to be just an act of revenge, especially after Angkas riders staged a protest action against the LTFRB’s earlier decision to cap the number of its riders to 10,000.
“Now that we have this hearing, may dokumento kayo ngayon (you are showing us a document) saying that it must be stopped, and when I read this document, it seems you are furious,” Recto said.
Recto also bewailed the lack of consultation by the LTFRB before coming up with the recommendation.
“Lumalabas din na kulang kayo sa public consultation (You did not hold any public consultation) and then when the court issues a TRO against you, you show anger. Kulang kayo sa public consultation (You lack public consultation) and that is your problem,” he said referring to the temporary restraining order issued by a Mandaluyong court halting for 72 hours the implementation of the ceiling on the number of motorcycles allowed to participate in the ongoing pilot program.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian echoed Recto’s comment. “What Sen. Recto said is right. What you’re doing is revenge. Paghihigante ito (This is revenge),” Gatchalian chided transport officials.
He said he could not see any basis for the recommendation to end the pilot testing on motorcycle taxis.
Sen. Joel Villanueva said the abrupt decision of the TWG to cancel the study as a viable public transportation is illogical. The TWG’s findings would have provided both houses of Congress a clearer perspective on the issue at hand, as its primary mandate should be.
“In outlawing motorcycle taxis with its decision to cancel the study, the TWG placed a portion of the riding public dependent on motorcycle taxis at risk because they will patronize an illegitimate form of transportation. From what we have gathered, our workers are reliant on motorcycle taxis to get to their jobs on time given the worsening traffic conditions here in Metro Manila.” Villanueva said.
PILOT RUN TO CONTINUE
Tugade said the DOTr is seriously considering the positions raised by senators, but reiterated motorcycle taxi operators abide with the 39,000 cap on motorcycle taxis and agree on the location of the pilot run.
Tugade likewise asked motorcycle-ride hailing firm Angkas to withdraw its case against the TWG.
“We are considering but according to Sec. Tugade, if it will be extended it should not be in an atmosphere filled with cases,” DOTr said in a statement.
In its recommendation, the TWG stressed that the issuance of a 20-day TRO by the Quezon City RTC Branch 223 which temporarily prevented it from implementing section 10 of the revised guidelines with regards the imposition of the rider cap had greatly compromised the integrity of the study’s data gathering design.
The rider cap of 30,000 riders in Metro Manila and 9,000 riders in Cebu, aimed to divide equally among the three participating motorcycle transport companies in the study the number of participating riders to generate a wider field of commuter ride experience input.
“As a result of the 20-day TRO, the integrity of the study was compromised as the data gathering design set by the TWG was hampered and allowed the unfettered entry of motorcycle taxis, eschewing the data gathering design of the TWG which was premised on a 30,000 riders sample size in Metro Manila and 9,000 riders in Cebu,” the TWG said in its recommendation.
“Without the cap or the limit set on the number of participating riders as stated under section 10 of the revised guidelines, the TWG cannot accurately collect data, and as such, compromising the integrity of its study,” it added.
In addition, the TWG said the pending cases lodged by Angkas before the QCRTC and the Mandaluyong City questioning the study’s revised guidelines have also hampered the implementation of the study.
“The TWG foresees its inability to gather accurate data to enable it to render any recommendation at the end of the pilot project. For this reason, the TWG hereby invokes section 13 of the revised guidelines and recommends that the pilot implementation be terminated,” it said.
In response, George Royeca chief transport service advocate and majority owner of Angkas told reporters that the company is willing to withdraw the cases filed against the TWG and will cooperate with the government in the implementation of the pilot run.
Noli Eala, JoyRide vice president for corporate affairs, said that they will continue to comply with the TWG.
“We will always comply with what our government will say considering that the study is not yet fully exhausted and there is still a need for additional data to be gathered in order to craft a strong legislation. I think the program should continue,” Eala said
Gardiola said the TWG has also recommended the blacklisting of Angkas for the latter’s alleged violation of the guidelines issued by the LTFRB.
Gardiona made the announcement in response to the query posed by Sen. Imee Marcos on the content of the report it submitted to Congress.
Marcos asked Gardiola if the blacklisting was not meant for Angkas individual riders but the company as a whole, to which the LTFRB official answered in the affirmative.
“In the guidelines, the pilot run areas should be at the National Capital Region and Cebu.
They cannot operate outside of these areas but they also operated in Cagayan de Oro, General Santos City, and Pampanga,” he said. – With Myla Iglesias