By Hannah Torregoza
The Department of Transportation’s Technical Working Group (TWG) in charge of managing the government’s pilot-testing on motorcycle taxis has been urged to reconsider its plan to terminate the program next week in consideration of the riding public’s concern over the lack of alternative mode of transportation in Metro Manila.
Senators made this collective call as they urged the transportation agencies, particularly the Land Transportation, Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), to work hard in collecting information and empirical data as Congress crafts the measure that seeks to regulate the operation of motorcycle taxis in the country, particularly ‘Angkas, ‘Joyride’ and ‘MoveIt.’
Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee who led the upper chamber’s inquiry, said it is unacceptable that government agencies in charge of the pilot testing have no specific information and documents to submit to the panel, despite launching a six-month pilot testing on motorcycle taxis.
“The whole purpose of this hearing is for us to be able to come up with a law. But again, a well-crafted law is always based on data, and observation and also the proper research. And we won’t be able to come up with a meaningful and effective law without the studies being submitted to us,” Poe told heads of the DOTr, LTFRB, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
“So again, I will appeal…this panel is unanimous in our opinion that the study must continue, because you are now telling me you should actually collate all the data, the accident reports if your basis is for the safety of the public,” Poe said.
Earlier, Antonio Gardiola Jr., a board member of LTFRB, and head of the TWG heading the pilot run, said that the motorcycle taxis will be deemed “illegal” starting next week.
Gardiola said they will be heeding the provisions under Republic Act No. 4136, which says that motorcycles are still considered as a private mode of transportation.
But Poe said she cannot understand why the LTFRB and the DOTr even considered launching a pilot study when it has no plans of exploring the possibility of using motorcycle taxis as an alternative mode of transportation.
“The DOTr has the authority to consider the legalization of motorcycle taxis in the same way it recognizes new forms of transport services under its department order to promote mobility, and that included Grab and Uber,” Poe pointed out.
“Now if you are using the law, but then, you allowed it for study. Even the courts have a wider understanding of the public need for alternative transportation and allowed this study to push through,” she pointed out.
Poe said it is not right for the TWG to “point a gun” at Congress and insist on passing the proposed law regulating motorcycle taxis when it has not even submitted any data to the panel.
Senator Ralph Recto supported Poe’s call saying he noted that the TWG has clearly been negligent over getting additional information and study and yet “they are the ones angry.”
“You don’t have the report on what happened over the six months. What do you want to amend on the law? Were you telling us anything? Nothing!” Recto pointed out.
“We were discussing the safety of the riding public, then you introduced caps (on the number of drivers). I think there’s really some mistakes here,” Recto told Gardiola.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also scored the LTFRB’s failure to execute its activities, particularly its deployment of “mystery passengers” that will conduct visitation and inspect motorcycle taxi drivers.
Gatchalian pointed out such activity is not even subject to the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the courts since it only covered the issue regarding the cap on the number of drivers.
“What you are doing is forcing the passengers to ride other motorcycle taxis which we’re not even sure are safe or not,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian said the TWG should just allow all the players in the motorcycle taxi industry to compete against each other, in the spirit of competition.
“Based on the perspective of the PCC (Philippine Competition Commission), generally, we don’t recommend setting caps on players to enter the market…Let the best man win,” Gatchalian stressed.