The Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Senator Grace Poe called on the technical working group (TWG) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to suspend their earlier pronouncement to discontinue the three-month extension of the motorcycle taxi test run which was still supposed to end in March and lift the riders cap.
In a public hearing on Monday that tackled the legalization of motorcycle taxis, Sen. Poe urged the TWG to continue the pilot run in order to aid the Senate in getting data to craft the proper legislation that regulates motorcycle taxis in the country.
“In this panel, we are unanimous in our opinion that the study must continue. Isuspend niyo muna ang pagbuwag sa pilot run. We won’t come up with a meaningful and effective law without the pertinent studies,” Poe stressed. “Kaya pag kinansela ang programa, mas lalo nating di makukuha ang datos ng Angkas. Kung tinatamad kayo kumuha ng datos, pwede naman kayog pumunta sa PNP, HPG, at kumuha ng datos sa kanila,” she added.
Poe also called out TWG chairman Antonio Gardiola Jr., who announced the decision to halt the pilot run immediately prior to the Senate hearing, for the arbitrary pronouncement.
“Naglabas kayo ng desisyon bago patayo nagkaroon ng konsultasyon. Hindi na ninyo kinonsidera ang talagang importanteng bagay dito na wala tayong alternatibo,” Poe stressed.
Poe also decried the riders cap that the TWG recently implemented. “We are rewarding them (Angkas) negatively by putting the cap,” Poe declared.
“Naintindihan ko yung frustration ng Angkas dahil kayo ang nagtanim, kayo ang nagsaing, pero ni hindi kayo pinakain,” she added.
The senate hearing was also attended by other senators Ralph Recto, Win Gatchalian, Bong Go, Imee Marcos, Joel Villanueva, Koko Pimentel, and Bato Dela Rosa.
Senator Ralph Recto, who also has a motorcycle taxi bill pending in the senate, also called out Gardiola for the summary changing of the TWG’s composition.
“I want an explanation from Secretary Tugade bakit binago ang TWG,” Recto demanded. “At bakit maraming natanggal sa TWG at ni walang representasyon ang Senado?”
Recto also decried the apparent inefficiency of the TWG. “Bakit parang wala namang meetings ang TWG? At parang isa lang ang nagdidikta,” Recto asked. “Kaya na-TRO kayo kasi wala kayong public consultation,” he added.
Recto also disagreed with the plan of the TWG to blacklist Angkas as a motorcycle taxi service. “If you think the presentation of Angkas is good and promotes safety, why are you blacklisting them?” he questioned.
Recto then asked for a copy of all the minutes of the meetings the TWG, the data they were able to gather in the first test run, and all department orders and memos pertinent to the issues at hand.
Senator Win Gatchalian, in turn, asked Gardiola why the TWG made decisions without a comprehensive data as reference.
“Ano nga ba ang basehan ng riders cap?” Gatchalian asked. “Patang legalized cartel ito. Dahil kung ako yung bagong player matutuwa ako na kabago-bago ko, may 10,000 agad ako na bikers,” he added.
“Paghihiganti po ito, dahil walang basehan ang lahat,” Gatchalian also noted.
Senator Bong Go, for his part, expressed his support for motorcycle taxis. “Motorcycle taxis like Angkas provide cheaper and faster services, helps previously unregulated habal habal drivers, we also recognize the high safety standards, helmets and reflectors being provided to bikers,” Go declared.
Go later said that there will be no arrest yet of motorcycle taxis despite the government’s move to terminate its pilot run study and declare them illegal. He claimed that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III had agreed to his request not to enforce the arrest starting next week.
“I will recommend to President Duterte the continuation of the extension of the pilot program for motorcycle taxis, provided that the players will abide and care for the safety of the passengers,” Go promised.
“Kami naman dito Senado ayaw naman namin na habang nagaantay kami na i-amend yung batas, e mawawalan po silang ng trabaho kaya pinakusapan namin kung pwedeng pagpatuloy muna yung kanilang operation,” he added.
Senator Imee Marcos, addressing Senator Poe as chair of the committee, said, “Madam Chair, maybe we can ask Gardiola what the basis was. Kasi parang ang mga napili nila ay yung mga walang track record.
“Ang akin lang, nakakapagtaka. Kapag may pasyente na maraming sakit, di naman natin pinapatay kasi give up na tayo. Wag natin patayin (ang ride hailing apps) kundi gamutin,” Marcos stressed.
Senator Joel Villanueva, in turn, labeled the riders cap as unconstitutional. “Yung pag set niyo ng policy to limit the number of riders that are able to work, parang sa ngayon, dapat ireconsider,” Villanueva noted, quoting an article in the Constitution.
“The State shall afford full protection of labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment,” Villanueva quoted. “Yan po ay pagbibigay ng hanapbuhay o trabaho sa ating mga kababayan kase pag ginawa ho natin ‘to (the riders cap), malilimitahan po sila,” he added.
“Will you reconsider now your position? There’s a constitutional provision here we already mentioned. This is the highest law of the land,” Villanueva noted.
Also during the hearing, Angkas Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca presented a summary of a comprehensive set of data gathered by the pioneering app-based motorcycle taxi service during the initial six-month test run held last year.
Royeca stressed that he has no fight with the LTFRB and the TWG and that what he was fighting for is the well-being of the bikers and the thousands of passengers. He also clarified several allegations made by the TWG, particularly those about the ownership of Angkas and their alleged operations in CDO, among other things.
Royeca ended his presentation by stressing that Angkas will continue to try to work with the government. “In spite all of these, nandito pa rin kami na gusting makipagtulungan. We are still committed to working with the government to build a better system,” he said.