ILLUSTRATION BY LUCIANO RAMIREZ

When in Metro Manila, the perennial concern on everyone’s mind is the horrendous traffic.

How do you beat traffic? Do you take the MRT? Do you ride your own vehicle? Or do you use your own motorcycle for ease of mobility? For the past few months, a lot of metro commuters have enjoyed the services offered by Angkas, a motorcycle taxi service in Metro Manila, accessible through a mobile app.

Recently, Metro Manila raised a collective howl of protest when Angkas ended its pilot run on December 2019. Angkas was allowed to operate legally for six months to allow the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to gather enough data to make a recommendation to Congress as to the viability—and legality—of the newest taxi service in the country. It has been operating since 2016.

When the pilot run for Angkas ended, there was public clamor for an extension. Apparently, many people have benefitted greatly from Angkas’ capacity to bring people to work faster. Its track record also seems to indicate that the service is efficient and has adhered to strict safety rules. Thus, DOTr extended the pilot test up to March 2020.

THE LAW BEHIND ANGKAS
Under Republic Act 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, most vehicles can be classified as either public (vehicles that may be used by the public after payment of fees) or private. The other vehicles that need registration are vehicles for sale, government vehicles, and tourist vehicles.

Public vehicles such as taxis, buses, and jeepneys must first secure permits and franchises from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) before they can provide rides to all citizens, while collecting a fee. Private vehicles can only be used by their owners, and can’t be used to pick up strangers to make money.

How about motorcycles? The law only allows motorcycles as private or government vehicles. There is no provision allowing them to be used as public vehicles.

Legally, there is no such thing as motorcycle taxis. The reason why DOTr allowed Angkas to operate on a pilot testing basis is to get data to support a legislative bill legalizing motorcycle taxis.

WHAT ABOUT TNVS?
A transport network vehicle service (TNVS) is a new phenomenon ushered in by Grab and Uber, through a directive from the DOTr back 2015. Under Department Order (DO) No. 2015-0111 amending DO No. 97-1097, DOTr introduced the TNVS as a new mode of public transport conveyance.

Through this innovation, private vehicles were allowed to serve the public for a fee, as government’s way of recognizing a new form of transport that can help address the large demand for service in an expeditious and responsive way.

Unfortunately for Angkas, TNVS does not include motorcycles. DOTr DO 2015-011 only covers sedans, Asian utility vehicles, sports utility vehicles, vans, and other four-wheelers. Motorcycles are not recognized as possible TNVS. The challenge here is that the law itself does not mention that motorcycles can be classified as public vehicles.

YET MORE NEW PLAYERS
When the pilot testing was completed, Angkas was directed to stop operations. Angkas claimed that a stoppage would affect 27,000 drivers and millions of people who want to use the service to beat traffic.

DOTr extended the pilot testing, but limited Angkas to a cap of 10,000 drivers. Angkas countered by securing a court injunction against the limit. Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 223 then issued a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the limit. The 20-day TRO was seen as a preliminary step to securing a permanent injunction.

AT THE END OF THE DAY, GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE ALLOWED SOME LEEWAY IN ENSURING THE SAFETY OF THE PUBLIC. HOWEVER, GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE MORE PROACTIVE IN FINDING SOLUTIONS TO THE TRAFFIC MESS IN METRO MANILA.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of competition, DOTr allowed other similar ride-hailing services, JoyRide and Move It, to operate. JoyRide has around 7,000 drivers, while Move It reportedly has 3,000 drivers.

MOVING FORWARD
The obvious solution to the Angkas/motorcycle ride-hailing apps dilemma is to amend the DOTr Department Order to include motorcycles as an allowed means of transportation classified under TNVS. In the long term, Republic Act 4136 will also have to be amended.

At the end of the day, government should be allowed some leeway in ensuring the safety of the riding public. However, government should be more proactive in finding solutions to the traffic mess in Metro Manila. Fortunately, there is reason to rejoice as the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX)- South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) connector road will be operational in a few months. In addition, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) has just opened its Tutuban-IRRI Los Baños line and more new trains are scheduled to arrive in the coming months. A new airport is also set to be opened in Bulacan.

Just maybe, with the help of a more disciplined citizenry, traffic woes in Metro Manila will soon be resolved.

*The author is a graduate of the UP College of Law and former city legal officer of Malolos City, Bulacan.

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