Motorcycles might yet be counted among the public utility vehicles (PUVs) with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) now expressing openness to the possibility.
In a directive issued on December 21, 2018, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade ordered the creation of a technical working group (TWG) to study the viability of legalizing the use of motorcycles for public transport.
His directive was issued more than a week after a Supreme Court ruling against motorcycle ride-sharing services provider Angkas drew widespread criticism given the worsening traffic jams in highly urbanized cities, especially in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.
Angkas strives to professionalize motorcycle taxi (or habal-habal in the Visayas) services by requiring its riders to wear a uniform with matching helmets both for the driver and passenger as well as undergo a seminar on passenger safety.
The motorcycle taxi is, however, illegal under the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, or Republic Act 4136.
Section 7 of the Code states that motorcycles, scooters or motor wheel attachments "shall not be used for hire underr any circumstances and shall not be used to solicit, accept, or be used to transport passengers or freight for pay."
In his directive, Tugade said that while the DOTr strictly complies with the law, it also listens to public clamor.
He said the TWG would study the kind of motorcycles that may be granted PUV franchises. Details such as a motorcycle taxi's engine displacement, travel speed and route would be under study. The TWG will also study seat and helmet requirements as well as training requirements for the driver, including his liability in case of accidents.
At present, motorcycle taxi passengers do not have insurance coverage because the motorcycle taxi is illegal. In case of accidents, both the driver and passenger would not receive anything to help with their medical bills.
“Naiintindihan natin ang pagtangkilik ng ilan nating kababayan sa mga motorsiklo bilang public transport. Pero tandaan natin na may batas laban dito, at may TRO pa ang Korte Suprema. Ang batas ay batas, at hindi po mauuna ang ehekutibo sa paglabag nito," Tugade said in a statement.
(We understand that some of our countrymen use motorcycles for public transport. But remember that there is a law against this and the Supreme Court has issued a TRO. The law is the law and the executive branch would not be the first to defy the law.)
"Pero nakikinig ang DOTr. Kaya kahit wala pang desisyon ang SC, bumubuo na tayo ng TWG para pag-aralan ang posibilidad na maging public transport ang mga motorsiklo,” Tugade added.
(But the DOTr listens. Even though the SC has not issued a final decision yet, we are forming a TWG to study the possibility of using motorcycles for public transport.)
The TWG will be composed of representatives of the DOTr, Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Philippine National Police - Highway Patrol Group, Metro Manila Development Authority, Senate, House of Representatives, commuter welfare groups, road safety advocates, motorcycle manufacturers, motorcycle organizations, and law schools.
The Supreme Court temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued on December 5 against the permanent injunction order issued by the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court which prevents authorities from intervening in the operations of Angkas.
This means that Angkas riders may now be apprehended. Law enforcers have also used the ruling to go after the habal-habal drivers. (Ventures Cebu)