Transportation dept. group: Motorcycle taxi ban stays, decision brought on by Angkas TRO

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 20)  – A Transportation department group studying the viability of motorcycle taxis admitted that the decision to cut the pilot run short was influenced by a stay order on restrictions during the test period.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' Busina Balita Monday, Robert Suansing, member of the technical working group, said, "Yung pagpapatigil, yung pagteterminate ng pilot run ay bunsod na rin ng aksyon na ginawa ng Angkas na idenimanda kami. So what is there to move, ano, kung ganyan din lang, 'di iterminate na natin yung pilot program."

[Translation: The stoppage, the termination of the pilot run was brought about the Ankas filing a suit against us. So what is there to move, if they want to do that, then let's just terminate the program.]

The restrictions include limiting the number of units per participant in the test run, namely Angkas, Joy Ride and Move It, covering Metro Manila and Cebu.

Suansing said the termination of the pilot run stays for now.

"At this point, the technical working group is saying that, as per sinabi ng aming chairman, terminated na yung program... Kaninang umaga during the press conference na nangyari doon sa Senado, sinabi ni Chairman (Antonio) Guardiola na terminated na yung pilot program and giving notice, seven days, lahat na terminated na ' mag-umpisa na ulit manghuli ang mga kinauukulan dahil nga illegal 'yan," said Suansing

[Translation: "At this point, the technical working group is saying that, as per our chairman, the program is terminated... At this morning's press conference in the Senate, Chairman Guardiola said the pilot program was terminated and we're giving seven days notice... apprehensions will begin because that is illegal.]

Meanwhile, Senator Bong Go said the move ending the pilot run of motorcycle taxi operations has been shelved.

In a chance interview with reporters on Monday, Go said there will be no apprehension pending a report from the technical working group.

Go said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Land Transportation and Franchising Board Chairman Martin Delgra have agreed to his appeal. He added that he will also forward the recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Gardiola, chairman of the technocal workiing group, earlier told the media that they will have to terminate the test run and declare ride-hailing firms Angkas, JoyRide and Move It as "illegal," as they have not gathered sufficient data on their safety despite the three-month extension given to conduct the study.

He told the Senate public services committee that despite the recommendation report that they sent to the Senate, they have not reached any conclusion to their working data.

A similar version of the report was supposed to be sent to the House transportation committee a week from now.

"Tinitigil po namin yung programa kasi hindi po kami makagalaw. Marami pong legal impediments along the way. Yung pagrerequire po namin ng guidelines, hindi po sinusunod ng Angkas," Gardiola told Senator Grace Poe, who chairs the hearing.

[Translation: We are stopping the program because we cannot move. There are so many legal impediments along the way. Angkas alone does not follow the guidelines that we have been requiring.]

The "impediments" cited in the report include numerous social media statements supposedly "disparaging" the TWG, and the staging of rally and petitions of Angkas against the decision of the TWG to impose a cap on their ridership. It also previously appealed for JoyRide and Move It to be excluded from the pilot run.

Inability to get data not a reason to stop test-run

The Senate panel, however, was not convinced by Gardiola's claims.

For one, Poe noted that the Congress cannot be pressured into passing a measure just because of the technical working group's "inability to get data."

"So, ikakansela niyo dahil ayaw niyong gawin ang trabaho ninyo, ganoon ba 'yon? Papaano ngayon niyan iligal silang lahat? Anong klaseng batas ang gagawin namin kung di susuportahan ng tamang pag-aaral?" Poe said.

[Translation: So, you want to cancel the study because you do not want to do your job, is that it? How will that be if all of them are illegal now? What kind of measure will we make if you cannot support the conduct of a thorough study?]

Even Civil Service Commission Aileen Lizada, former LTFRB member, noted that there is no reason for the TWG to stop their study, citing the struggles of the agency, when it imposed orders and penalties on ride-hailing firms Grab and Uber in the past.

"With Grab and Uber we had a lot of birthing pains. We had a lot of difficulty getting data from Grab and Uber but we did not give up because we thought of the riding public and I would like to encourage the technical working group to proceed," Lizada said.

The Inter-agency TWG first conducted its study from June to December 2019. This was extended to three more months until March this year.

Poe also came to the defense of motorcycle-taxis, saying that their operations should continue amid the continuing malfunctions of the metropolitan's public trains.

"It's not necessarily the safest, but it's something that we need at this time because we need alternative modes [of transportation] when even our MRTs (Metro Railway Transit) are not fully operational at a hundred percent," Poe said.

She even urged the private sector to file cases against the termination of the study.

In a statement later in the afternoon, the TWG said that they are considering all sentiments raised in the Senate. It said that it will further discuss the matter and a report will then be submitted to Tugade for further developments.

Citing Tugade, DOTr Director for Communications Goddess Libiran said that the extension must take place in an atmosphere that is "not filled with cases" and disagreements with the firms.

"Another meeting shall likewise be conducted on Friday with stakeholders, resource persons, and the three motorcycle providers participating in the study, to iron out the specifics," the statement read.

In Suansing's interview with Busina Balita, he admitted there was data available.

Congress has yet to amend Republic Act 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, which bars two-wheeled vehicles from being used as public transportation.

Over 39,000 riders in Metro Manila and Cebu will lose their jobs should the ban take effect.

Angkas bikers earlier filed a petition against the new LTFRB guidelines on the motorcycle pilot run, which the company said will leave 17,000 of its 27,000 bikers unemployed.

The (TWG) said it imposed the cap since two new apps — JoyRide and Move It — also sought to provide motorcycle ride-hailing services.

An order from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 223 dated January 9, granted the petition of DBDOYC Inc. — the company behind motorcycle ride-hailing app Angkas — for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the decision of transport officials to limit the number of motorcycle taxi riders to 30,000 in Metro Manila and 9,000 in Cebu.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas, Glee Jalea, Melissa Luz Lopez, and Pia Garcia contributed to this report.