In a landmark move, Angkas has been granted a preliminary injunction by the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City, allowing it to immediately resume its motorcycle taxi passenger service.
In a congressional hearing of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, committee chairman Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo lauded the court order and said that it’s a welcome development for the public, as a critical transportation lifeline reopens to them.
“We know that improvements to mass transport are underway, but people cannot wait any longer for MRT-7 and the subway. They need Angkas now.”
The court order, which Angkas operations head David Medrana presented to the committee during the meeting, enjoins the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Department of Transportation “from interfering, whether directly or indirectly, with the petitioner’s operations; from apprehending Angkas bikers who are in lawful pursuit of their trade or occupation based on petitioner’s Angkas mobile application; and from performing any act or acts that will impede, obstruct, frustrate, or defeat (the) petitioner’s pursuit of its lawful business or trade as owner and operator of the Angkas mobile application.”
Angkas voluntarily suspended its operations last year after they were outlawed by the LTFRB.
However, the persistent problems in the country’s mass transport system, with the constant breakdown of the MRT and the traffic gridlocks in key thoroughfares, saw the intensifying of the clamor for an alternative mode of transportation in the last few months.
This drove transport advocacy group Transport Watch to lead the clamor for better mobility and wider transport options for the Filipino commuters.
“With the current problems on transportation and mobility hounding the country’s commuters, there is a need for the immediate regulation of motorcycle taxis. It is high time for the government to allow the operation of motorcycle taxis to legitimize their services and provide a faster, more efficient, more convenient, and safer alternative to illegal habal-habals,” Transport Watch lead convenor George Royeca pointed out.
As the need for better transport alternatives are brought to the fore, Rep. Castelo, in a previous committee meeting held last June 6, directed the DOTr to amend their Department Order (DO) classifying only four-wheeled private vehicles as Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) to include motorcycle taxis. The department was given 30 days to comply.
However, the time elapsed without any noticeable action from LTFRB.
This prompted Angkas to file the petition for the preliminary injunction last July, which was eventually granted the following month.
“Out of deference to the authorities, we did not immediately act on the court order and instead reached out to LFRB in good faith, with the intent to cooperate,” Medrana said.
LTFRB board member Atty. Aileen Lizada said that as an implementing agency, they are bound to uphold the Republic Act (R.A.) 4136, reiterating that “their hands are tied” and jurisdiction for motorcycle taxis has overlapping gray areas.
Lizada maintained their position that only sedans and four-wheeled vehicles can be treated as a Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS).
In reply, Rep. Castelo asked, “Is LTFRB above the law? Angkas went to the proper venue, and you will be in contempt if you do not honor it.”
Conceding, Lizada admitted that they are open to dialogue and are willing to conduct pilot testing for motorcycle taxis in limited areas first.
Atty. Ariel Inton, speaking on behalf of advocacy group Transport Watch agreed that valid arguments were posed by Lizada, having been a former LTFRB board member himself. “However, there is no denying that in rural areas accessibility is hampered by the narrow unpaved roads, passable only to motorcycles. Conversely, even in urban areas like Metro Manila, there are areas with severe travel restrictions, for example, Barangay Pansol in Quezon City,” Inton said.
Castelo said there is a need for more modes of transportation to address the deplorable condition faced by the public:
“With the worsening traffic and the inefficient mass transport system, thousands of disgruntled commuters are urging measures that can help them in their daily commuting struggles. Alternative means of transportation are a necessity,” he said.
Valenzuela City 1st district representative Wes Gatchalian, a member of the committee, acknowledged the need for more options. However, he took exception to the premise that motorcycle taxis would eradicate illegal habal-habal. Rep. Gatchalian called on Angkas to do its part, saying that “It is the government’s job to regulate, but Angkas must be responsible and police their own ranks.”
Medrana answered that “Angkas provides training and certification and would happily welcome habal-habal drivers as biker entrepreneurs provided they pass the requirements and extensive screening process,” adding that in their fleet, many partners were former habal-habal drivers.
Royeca, for his part, said that passengers will be better off with the intervention to regulate and legalize motorcycle taxis such as Angkas.
“There are five million registered motorcycles, but 14 million motorcycles are out on the streets now, so how can the government enforce safety, when they can’t even ensure the full compliance to
registration? People will be forced to continue patronizing habal-habal, so it is riskier not regulated. In fact, most habal-habal drivers don’t even have licenses either,” Royeca said.
Motorcycle Rights Organization (MRO) chairman Jobert Bolanos, who was invited to the meeting as a resource person on behalf of motorcycle riders,
said that “people will go to motorcycles with or without law, but when you professionalize a service, you make it safer.” He also emphasized how Angkas is a more attractive livelihood.
“The app makes the market come to Angkas drivers, so why would they choose to remain habal-habal drivers when Angkas gives free training, covers them with insurance, and provides a steady flow of bookings?”