CEBU City Mayor Edgardo Labella is well aware of the pending measure in Congress to legalize the operation of motorcycle taxis, or habal-habal, not only in Cebu City but nationwide.
Labella said he signed Executive Order (EO) 36, which establishes the Cebu City Motor Riders Community Welfare Office (CCMRCWO), not to legalize their operation but to regulate it.
“CCMRCWO is for self-disciplining, self-regulating, self-policing because they will form a cooperative. Once they form a cooperative, what will happen is they will help each other to promote the welfare of members of the cooperative,” the mayor said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
He said the purpose of his EO is for the sector to catch the attention of the government.
“The purpose of the government is not to make the lives of the needy miserable, but we are here to help and make their lives become better by way of regulating them. And it’s up to the authority if they will apprehend because they have children also to be fed daily,” he said.
Labella said the public has been forced to resort to this mode of transportation despite the dangers it presents because of the lack of an effective system that addresses the city’s worsening traffic problem.
“Because of the absence of mass transport, workers not only from the City of Cebu prefer to ride a motorcycle because of mobility... This is illegal, but the people already accepted this mode of transport because it is already a necessity,” he said.
The mayor did not give the CCMRCWO any budget, but he said its members can approach the office of Lemar Alcover, head of the Peace and Order Program on the ninth floor of the City Hall building.
Labella denied that politics was behind the creation of the CCMRCWO.
In 2019, Cebu City North District Representative Raul del Mar and five other district representatives in Cebu tried to pass an amendatory House Bill to legalize the operation of two-wheeled taxis but they ran out of time to have it signed.
On Sunday, January 5, 2020, Labella gathered more than 2,000 habal-habal drivers and told them about the plan to turn their group into a cooperative and also to inform them of the need to undergo driving training for the safety of their passengers.
Labella said their presence is of great help because habal-habal drivers can serve as force multipliers during big events in the city like the upcoming Sinulog festival and they can help with the peace and order situation.
Many habal-habal drivers were happy with the development. However, a group of habal-habal drivers who are stationed on Colon St. said they only agreed with the EO because they were afraid they would be barred from accepting passengers.
“We agree because we don’t have any choice on the matter. They might order us to leave our spot or they might apprehend us and we would lose our means of livelihood,” one of them said in Cebuano.
Another said he was pleased that the government finally did something to help them.
Their other companions, though, refused to comment on the issue although they said that they, too, were happy with the news. (PAC/PJB, JCT)