[UPDATED] Motorcycle taxi services Angkas, JoyRide, and MoveIt will be allowed to see out a Transport Department pilot run as scheduled after a Senator today rejected a recommendation by the technical working group (TWG) overseeing the pilot to terminate it months ahead of schedule.
The TWG’s pilot run was supposed to end in March, but TWG chairman Antonio Gardiola told Senator Grace Poe — who chairs the Committee on Public Services — in today’s Senate hearing that they were seeking to terminate the pilot study because of “legal impediments.”
“We laid out guidelines, but they were not followed,” Gardiola said, without specifying what the violated guidelines were.
Gardiola told reporters after the hearing that Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade had approved his recommendation to end the pilot, CNN Philippines reports.
The TWG was tasked with overseeing the pilot program aimed at assessing the feasibility of motorcycle taxi services as a safe mode of public transportation. Bills filed in both houses of Congress seeking to legalize motorcycles as public utility vehicles (PUVs) are currently awaiting votes. Amid public calls to fast-track the amendment of the decades-old transportation law, the motorcycle trial run had been extended twice since last year.
Prior to the formation of the TWG, pioneering ride-sharing service Angkas, which hit the road in 2017, had faced on-and-off suspensions from the Transport Department thanks to the government’s lack of clear regulations on motorcycle taxis. Last year, the department decided to launch the TWG, which was expanded in December to include two other operators, JoyRide and MoveIt, for what was meant to be a three-month period.
The TWG is now set to submit a report explaining whether they moto-taxis are a viable PUV option, and their recommendation will be forwarded to Congress for deliberation. No motorcycles will be authorized to operate as PUVs unless or until a law approving the practice is enacted.
“A week from now, we [will submit] a report to Congress, to the committee on transportation. A week from now, we will start the enforcement,” Gardiola said.
On Twitter, dominant player Angkas expressed their reaction to the decision by merely tweeting, “sad la”
— Angkas (@angkas) January 20, 2020
In the comments, Angkas users echoed the sentiment, with others saying they were also frustrated and angry with the government’s recent measures.
The pioneering ride-sharing service hasn’t exactly seen eye to eye with TWG, not after the body decided to controversially cut Angkas’ 27,000-strong fleet down to just 10,000.
Early this month, Angkas also imposed “a weight safety check” update that restricts “heavy passengers” from using the service, maintaining the feature was a “government requirement.” However, the TWG has denied that it ordered Angkas to refuse rides to heavy passengers, saying that it merely emphasized that motorcycle taxis should be able to carry passengers safely.
Later today, the TWG was told by Senator Poe to reconsider its plan to terminate the program in consideration of public commuter’s lack of alternative transportation in Metro Manila.
Poe said that despite TWG’s recommendation, the pilot run will continue, the Manila Bulletin reports.
Poe told the heads of transport agencies, “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”
“So again, I will appeal…this panel is unanimous in our opinion that the study must continue,” she said.
This article, [UPDATED] Senator Poe rejects TWG’s recommendation to consider motorcycle taxis illegal starting next week, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!