Malilong: Crippling Angkas

Frank Malilong

I DO NOT know how to ride a motorcycle. Once, out of bragadoccio and in the midst of merciless taunting from friends, I tried mounting a motorbike and ended up lying in a mat of corn grits after I plowed into a sari-sari store in Tangke, Pio V. Corpus, Masbate.

I am not even sure if I know how to backride. In Malapascua after Yolanda, the motorcycle that was carrying me to where our pumpboat was moored, crashed because I tried to counterbalance: When the bike swerved, I shifted my weight to the opposite direction.

I will probably never be a frequent habal-habal or Angkas customer. I do not want to risk another accident. The third is supposed to be usually deadlier.

But there are many others who do not share my inadequacy and, more importantly, rely on the motorcycle as a means of transportation. The motorbike fills a real need in them and for them, praise must go to the company that systematized the guerilla operation of the habal-habal and pioneered the motorcycle ride-hailing industry.

I am referring to Angkas, of course. I have no love lost for the company. I still think that many of its riders are arrogant, behaving like most other motorcycle riders, acting as if they own the road and violating every safety rule in the book. But these are deficiencies that can be adequately addressed, better when done jointly with the government regulating agency.

It seems, however, that the government agency is less interested in converting Angkas motorcycles into reliable and roadworthy common carriers than in making it difficult for the company to operate at a reasonable margin.

There is no other way you can view the decision of the technical working group of the LTFRB to reduce the fleet of Angkas-affiliated motorcycles from 30,000 to 13,000 nationwide to pave the way for two industry latecomers to cash in on the motorcycle taxi business.

It is claimed that the equal sharing among the trailblazer and the two new kids on the block was only for the duration of the extension of the motor taxi pilot run. This is, however, belied by the TWG’s other pronouncement which was that they did not want any monopoly in the business.

Competition is good, especially in a business that is impressed with public interest. But is it fair competition to weaken a pioneer as a favor to the new players?

We are supposed to recognize initiative and resourcefulness. But if they are not prepared to grant that reward because they want all three to start on equal footing, why doesn’t the TFG just let the two companies match the current 30,000-motorbike fleet of Angkas and allow the market forces to take over?

That would be the fairest arrangement of all.