The daily traffic congestion and the demand for better mass transit options has made app-based motorcycle taxis a viable choice for commuters in Metro Manila.
But bike-hailing apps, such as Angkas, JoyRide, i-Sabay, Sampa and Habal Inc., have to face a number of legal hurdles as two-wheeled vehicles are banned from being used as public transport under Republic Act No. 4136, or the “Land Transportation and Traffic Code.”
Launched in 2016, Angkas was one of the first bike for hire that initally operated in the cities of Taguig, Makati, Manila, Pasay and Pasig, and charged a base fare of P50 for the first two kilometers.
The service claims that all its riders are “professional bikers” and that passengers are “covered with personal accident insurance.”
Just a month into its operations, Angkas was ordered to cease operations by the the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) because the ride-hailing app has yet to meet government requirements.
LTFRB cited its Memorandum Circular No. 2015-015, which sets the rules and regulations for the accreditation of TNCs or transport network companies, which at the time were only Grab, Uber and U-Hop.
In August 2017, six motorcycle drivers affiliated with Angkas were arrested in Makati City for operating as public utility vehicles (PUV). Three months later, Angkas shuttered its operations after its Makati office was closed for failing to show proof that it had the necessary permits to operate.
While Angkas operations in Metro Manila were being shut down in 2017, its 2,000 motorcycle drivers in Cebu City had just started to offer commuters a faster alternative that would weave through the city also notorious for its traffic jams.
But in November 2017, transportation authorities ordered the closure of Angkas in Cebu for operating without a permit.
After its operation shutdown, Angkas Riders and Passengers Group (ARPG), as well as other Facebook pages that offer to service passengers for a fee, also known as “habal-habal,” became active on social media. Habal-habal is known as a public transport in rural areas, where public utility vehicles are scarce.
Angkas found its way back on the streets in September 2018 after Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 213 allowed motorcycle taxis using the Angkas booking app to resume operations.
Its legal resumption of services was shortlived after the Supreme Court, on Dec. 5, 2018, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on a Mandaluyong City court ruling that allowed Angkas to operate amid objections from transport sector regulators.
This forced the government to reconsider legalizing and regulating the motorcycle taxi industry due to lack of transparency and accountability mechanisms involved in the transactions being offered in “habal-habal,” compromising rider safety.
In May last year, Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade approved a six-month dry run for Angkas that would start in June and end on Dec. 3. The results were expected to largely determine if motorcycles would be allowed to operate as public transport through amending the law.
Another player in the ride-hailing sector that wished to legally enter the market and join the dry run is JoyRide, which announced its launch in October last year.
JoyRide started training its over 6,000 applicant-drivers at its 5,000-sqm facility on Marcos Highway despite the absence of a greenlight from authorities.
The Inquirer had earlier reported that a memorandum by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) showed that only Angkas is authorized to participate in the pilot test so passenger safety can be closely monitored and safeguarded.
There are, however, two more active bike-hailing apps – i-Sabay and Sampa. With anj initial pool of 2,000 riders, i-Sabay was formed through the network of bikers in ARPG. Motorcycle owners are required to submit National Bureau of Investigation and police/barangay clearances, driver’s license (professional or nonprofessional) and the official receipt and certificate of registration for their bikes to get on the platform.
Sampa, on the other hand, was reportedly launched by Juniven Taganas, Taguig City traffic management team head. Its applicants also has the same requirements.
Another potential player in the two-wheeled ride-hailing sector is Habal Inc., which is reportedly still in the recruitment stage of its drivers.
On Dec. 20 last year, LTFRB announced that it would extend the pilot study for Angkas, but this time including two new operators, JoyRide and MoveIt. The three-month extension started on Dec. 23 and end on Mar. 23.
But on Jan. 20, the government’s technical working group on motorcycle taxis cancelled its three-month study without coming to any conclusion and sought to blacklist Angkas for violating its directives.
The DOTr’s technical working group (TWG), composed of representatives from DOTr, Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Philippine National Police – Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Senate, House of Representatives, motorcycle and commuter safety advocates, first convened in January last year.
It aims to determine appropriate standards and capacities of a motorcycle and its driver for public transportation as well as regulatory concerns on accountability for passenger safety.
Lawmakers have criticized the move and vowed to ask LTFRB not to stop the pilot study as well as ask the private sector to file cases against the TWG for its “unjust” decision.
Compiled by Kathleen de Villa, Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives, dotr.gov.ph, angkas.com