THE recent public relations spat between Angkas, and the Department of Transportation on the introduction of two other motorcycle ride hailing companies, Joyride and MoveIt, has done little to curb the demand for motorcycle taxis.
These new public transportation options challenge existing laws (or emphasize the lack of it) and in the case of motorcycle taxis, how the benefits—which cause the great demand for it—have outweighed valid safety issues, as motorcycles are known to be one of the most vulnerable type of vehicle on the road.
Here is the rub.
Under the Land Transportation and Traffic Code of the Philippines, motorcycles cannot be considered PUVs. This is what the DOTr is insisting and is evaluating pioneer motorcycle ride hailing service Angkas at the same time allowing the entry of Joyride and MoveIt, and determine whether it is safe or not for the public to use.
Based on the records from LTO starting 2010 to 2015, the number of road crashes where motorcycles involved goes higher every year except in the year 2012 where there was a slight decrease. In 2010 3,543 accidents were recorded; 3,665 in 2011; 3,112 in 2012; 4,616 in 2013; 5,720 in 2014; and a sudden jump to 8,728 in 2015.
Interestingly, these numbers relate, almost proportionally, to the improvement of sales of motorcycle in the country. It was in 2015 that the industry exceeded the 1 million sales mark, flooding the roads with motorcycles.
To get a feel of the importance of Angkas to the riding public, Malaya Business Insight interviewed three regular users. They use the mobile app on a daily basis because of the speed, convenience and reasonable pricing it offers to beat the daily traffic in the metropolis.
Jean Paula Besmonte, a teacher, said she prefers using Angkas compared to other modes of transportation, even if sometimes whenever the motorcycle she’s on to passes in between two vehicles on the road makes her hype or panic.
“I’m comforted by the thought that Angkas drivers prioritize safety. I think Angkas is a very good one for now,” she said.
She added that Angkas drivers are not only responsible for themselves but also to their passengers. She considers it as a band-aid solution for the everyday traffic in Metro Manila but stressed the convenience it gives to avoid being stuck for long hours on the road.
Jayson Nievera, also a teacher and regular Ankgas user explained that from his home in Malabon City going to his work in Fairview, Quezon City, is only about 30 minutes of travel time versus up to two hours of traffic and avoids him being late at school.
“The fastest way to get to school at exact time is using Angkas,” Nievera said as he emphasized how safe he feels because of the safety measures the company implemented to ensure the welfare of both rider and passenger.
For Axel John Olleres, another Angkas user, said the app is very beneficial when it comes to saving time, even if in many instances it is more expensive to the usual public utility vehicles.
“When you’re in a rush you won’t think the price anymore, you won’t [think] twice,” Olleres insists as he explained that safety can be compromised depending on the driver and not solely on the particular mode of transportation used such as jeepneys or buses.
All of the three interviewees said, that when it comes to using Angkas, the benefits outweigh the risks of using the said app in beating the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
Eric Lazarte, Chairperson of the Philippine Advocates for Road Safety, a volunteer advocacy group that focuses on road safety, he said that, personally he is waiting for the result of the assessment of Angkas. His group focuses on the vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians and conducts communication education or public forum.
Lazarte said that road crashes where motorcycle riders are included involve different factors such as low level of awareness, the worthiness of the vehicle where parts of the motorcycle are being modified, and road engineering. Then he mentioned how Angkas has a rigid screening process for those who want to be their drivers.
“They received 90,000 applicants but only 30,000, or 1/3 were accepted,” Lazarte said stressing that the knowledge and skills of the applicant driver are one of the strict requirements in order to be hired. Based on his observation, Angkas drivers are different compared to usual motorcycle riders who have limited knowledge on road safety.
“Right now, wala tayong solution habang di naaayos ang mass transport, habang di naayos, iyan ang solusyon talaga diyan,” Lazarte pointed out in relation to the state of motorcycle taxis. If the legal platforms like Angkas are closed down it may lead to chaos.
“If it (motorcycle taxis) are not controlled or properly be regulated, the risk to the riding public is higher. Illegal motorcycle taxis (called ‘habal-habal’) may be utilized because the convenience and efficiency of motorcycle taxis is apparent.” Lazarte said.
Lazarte said one solution is to have mandatory motorcycle safety training before someone could buy a motorcycle unit. He laments that as long as one has enough money for a down payment, anyone can buy a motorcycle even those who can’t drive to begin with. He said that a regulation from the very start or from the buying process can help in reducing the statistics of the road crashes.
The government needs to come to a decision and allow by law, motorcycle taxis. It needs to adopt policies to allow safer motorcycle taxis to be able to adapt to the current public transportation situation, and make innovations, yet at the same time, maintain public safety.
This story was produced under the Road Safety Journalism Fellowship carried out by VERA Files and the World Health Organization under the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety.