Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Motorcycle taxis get reprieve

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will continue its pilot testing of motorcycle taxis until Congress is able to amend laws to regulate the use of the two-wheeled transport as public utility vehicles (PUVs), Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go announced yesterday. Go disclosed the DOTr’s move to riders of motorcycle ride-hailing company Angkas who gathered outside the Senate building as the committee on public services, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, was holding a hearing on motorcycle taxi bills.

“We don’t want people to lose their jobs, but we must prioritize the safety of passengers,” Go told the riders, whom he also asked to cooperate with the DOTr’s technical working group (TWG), which is conducting the pilot testing. The senator told the riders he was able to talk to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chairman Martin Delgra III and TWG chief Antonio Gardiola not to push through with the TWG’s plan to stop its pilot testing.

Go added that he also spoke with the owners of Angkas for them to cooperate with the DOTr and other concerned government agencies in the continuation of the pilot testing. Gardiola announced yesterday that the TWG would no longer continue its pilot testing next week, which meant that Angkas and new applicants like JoyRide and Move It can no longer operate until the government comes up with a clear policy on regulating motorcycle taxis.

Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code does not allow motorcycles to be PUVs, owing to the high risk of injury and death their use poses to riders and passengers. The LTFRB suspended Angkas in November 2017 for violating RA 4136 and started apprehending riders of the company for operating illegally. The Supreme Court backed the LTFRB in overturning the temporary restraining order obtained by the company from a Mandaluyong court.

The LTFRB also discovered that Angkas was operating in other urban areas outside the allowed testing area of Metro Manila and Cebu. The LTFRB initiated its six-month pilot testing of motorcycle taxis in June last year with Angkas as the only player.

The TWG extended the testing to March 23 and allowed the entry of JoyRide and Move It to promote competition, but the body also put a cap on the number of riders at 10,000 for each player for Metro Manila and 3,000 each for Cebu. Angkas claimed that 17,000 of its 27,000 riders would lose their livelihood and proceeded to seek injunction from the courts on the TWG’s order.

During the hearing, Poe said any private citizen can file cases against the TWG for terminating the test. “I encourage the private citizens and the stakeholders to file a case against the departments if they don’t continue (testing), because the study is crucial for the data to be submitted to Congress so that we can base our bills, we can base our law on the proper results of the study,” Poe said.

Early termination The TWG had previously called for the early termination of its ongoing study, which would make operations of motorcycle taxis illegal once more.

In a report dated Jan. 17, which was submitted to Congress yesterday, the TWG recommended to “immediately terminate the implementation of the pilot study.”

The extended pilot run was supposed to end on March 23. The TWG likewise recommended the blacklisting of Angkas from further participating as a motorcycle taxi service provider should motorcycle taxis be legalized as they “blatantly exhibited defiance on mandated guidelines set forth by the TWG.”

Tugade approved the TWG’s recommendations.

“We recommended for the termination of the study since we cannot move because of many legal impediments. We have set guidelines but they did not follow. It’s better to terminate it because we’re almost half of the three-month extension but we have yet to gather data,” Gardiola said. In its report, the TWG cited numerous obstacles it encountered perpetrated by Angkas during the pilot study.

These include the staging of a rally last Dec. 22 protesting the cap set per provider and numerous social media statements disparaging the TWG as well as the petitions for injunction filed by the company and its riders.

Once the pilot study is terminated, Gardiola said motorcycle taxi operations would become illegal once again. “They will all be illegal because they are drawing their authority to run motorcycle because of the study,” he said.

“A week from now it will take effect. So maybe a week from now, we will start enforcement,” Gardiola said in an interview prior to yesterday’s hearing by the Senate committee on public services on the legalization of motorcycle taxi services.

In a statement after the hearing, however, the TWG said it is considering the sentiments raised by members of the Senate public services committee as well as by other stakeholders. Violation, blacklisting

Meanwhile, the TWG said there were validated reports and apprehensions made by the LTFRB that Angkas was operating outside of Metro Manila and Cebu, a violation of key points in the study’s implementing guidelines.

Aside from these, the TWG said reports on various social media accounts and admissions made by Angkas regulatory and public affairs head George Royeca testify to their violation, which they said affected their conduct and the data gathering process of the pilot study. “The TWG is mandated to conduct a study on the viability of the motorcycle as an alternative and safe mode of public transportation and not to make a study on job generation for riders. Competition has no place in this study as this is being done to gather data and not to determine the viability for profit or income,” the TWG said in a statement released after the Senate hearing yesterday.

The TWG added that Angkas also did not reveal to the riding public that it is not a majority-owned Filipino corporation, which is a violation of Philippine laws. “Angkas also did not disclose to the riding public that DBDOYC, its registered corporation name, is 99-percent foreign-owned, which is in violation of Philippine laws that common carriers should be at least 60 percent owned by Filipino citizens,” the TWG said.

“Records from the Securities and Exchange Commission have revealed that DBDOYC or Angkas is 99.996 percent owned by Angeline Xiwen Tham, a Singaporean, with P9.8 million in subscribed shares. Tham is also listed at the SEC as president of DBDOYC,” it added. For its violations of the study’s implementing guidelines and for its failure to publicly disclose its foreign ownership, the TWG has recommended the blacklisting of Angkas/DBDOYC Inc. and its incorporators from applying and operating as a motorcycle taxi service provider should a law be enacted amending RA 4136 and other related laws allowing motorcycles as PUVs.

The TWG, however, said it was taking into consideration the concerns of senators and other stakeholders. The TWG will further discuss tomorrow Poe’s call to continue the pilot study, after which the body will submit a report to Tugade.

It added that it would also meet on Friday with stakeholders, resource persons and the three motorcycle taxi providers participating in the pilot study to iron out the specifics.

Meanwhile, JoyRide said it would await the decision of the TWG. “Joyride will continue to hasten the activation of our riders pursuant to the current guidelines,” JoyRide vice president for corporate affairs Noli Eala told The STAR. – With Richmond Mercurio, Neil Jayson Servallos, Emmanuel Tupas
SOURCE: www.philstar.com