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MANILA, Philippines – The country is in need of an additional tens of thousands motorcycle taxi riders to meet the demand of commuters, according to Move It general manager Wayne Jacinto.
“To be honest, in general, for the whole industry, we want sana (hopefully) at least 100,000 riders. Lahat na, sa buong inidustry na ‘yon. Kasi right now (That’s for the whole industry. Because right now), we have 45,000, and that’s not enough,” Jacinto told reporters during Move It’s app relaunching event on Tuesday, May 30.
“Ang importante makita natin ang dami ng demand versus supply na meron tayo. Kasi ‘pag tumaas pa ang demand at kulang ang supply, may problema na naman tayo pagdating sa transportation,” he added.
(It’s important for us to see the demand versus the supply that we have. Because if demand keeps growing and supply is not enough, then we’ll have another transportation problem.)
This lack of supply is among the reasons why the habal-habal or unaccredited motorcycles-for-hire remains widespread. For instance, Jacinto said that in the “outskirts of Cebu,” the habal-habal is the most popular mode of transportation.
“Ang habal-habal, hindi lang siya nangyayari sa Manila. Tayo ang pinaka-konti na naghahabal-habal. ‘Pag lumabas ka at pumunta ka ng ibang probinsya, doon, number 1 ang habal-habal,” he added.
(The habal-habal is not just here in Manila. We have the fewest cases of habal-habal here. When you go out to the provinces, that’s where you’ll see the habal-habal is the number 1 mode of transportation.)
Since 2019, only three motorcycle taxi providers have been allowed to operate under the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) pilot study: Move It, Angkas, and JoyRide. Each transport network company is given 15,000 slots for its riders. Motorcycle taxis are also only allowed to operate in big cities, like cities in Metro Manila and Cebu.
Jacinto is hopeful that the additional slots could be opened up within the year – perhaps even within the next two months. Better yet, he said, the operation of motorcycle taxis should be formalized through a law, rather than just a pilot study.
This comes as Senator Grace Poe also backed the legalization of motorcycle taxis.
“Four years and a global pandemic later, we believe it is now high time for Congress to use the data points from the ground to craft a policy that is responsive to the needs of the commuting public and all the stakeholders of the ever-growing motorcycle taxi industry,” the senator said, presiding over a hearing of the Senate committee on public services.
A survey by the technical working group also showed overwhelming support for legalization of motorcycle taxis, with 96% of their passengers wanting the government to allow motorcycle taxis.
Move It’s plans
For its part, Move It has set aggressive targets to capture its share of the market. Jacinto aims to grow Move It’s user base from around 100,000 to 1,000,000. He also wants to increase the company’s number of riders from the current 6,500 to the maximum allowable, 15,000.
Jacinto is confident Move It can hit these targets, citing its edge in technology, which is the biggest struggle of most ride-hailing companies.
“Ang number 1 problem ng motorcycle taxi company, kung ano mang TNC ‘yan, technology. ‘Yung tech part, that’s the hardest thing. Ang hirap magdevelop. Imagine kung ilang transaction papasok sa ‘yo araw-araw. Pagmahina-hina ang technology mo, magkracrash ‘yan, maglalag,” he said.
(The number 1 problem of any motorcycle taxi company is technology. The tech part, that’s the hardest thing. It’s hard to develop. Imagine how many transactions come in every day. If your technology is weak, it will crash and lag.)
The overhaul of the app was a laborious process, taking eight to nine months and involving “many teams of developers.” But, Jacinto said, Move It now boasts of an uptime of 99.95%.
The revamped Move It app now allows in-app VOIP calling, cutting out the need for third-party communications apps. Users can also share their ride details to others using the “share-my-ride” feature. Move It also makes use of GrabMaps and Navigation, allowing for precise pinning for pick-up and drop-off locations.
What about fares?
This technology upgrade was enabled, in large part, by ride-hailing giant Grab’s controversial acquisition of the company. Although some lawmakers have flagged the move as a possible backdoor entry by Grab into the motorcycle taxi industry, Jacinto said that they have not encountered any further issues with the Philippine Competition Commission.
During a House hearing in late 2022, Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo warned that Grab’s buyout of Move It could allow the superapp to crowd out the small motorcycle taxi market over time. She also noted Grab’s “previous behavior” of charging higher fares after it acquired Uber and practically monopolized the market.
However, Grab’s head of mobility Samir Kumar emphasized that Move It and Grab were “completely independent” of each other.
“These are completely separate apps. Grab is a technology provider to Move It. So Move It is a standalone app,” Kumar said on Tuesday.
Jacinto also allayed fears that Move It could hike its fares in the future, pointing out that its fares must follow the fare matrix set by the DOTr’s pilot study.
“May sinusunod na fare matrix e. You cannot go beyond. Masususpend ka. Under the TWG, meron kasi nakaset na fare matrix doon,” Jacinto said. “Sa Move It, kami, mas binababa pa nga namin ng konti e. So hindi ko nakikita ‘yung lumalabas na dahil nakuha ni Grab, tataas ‘yung fares.”
(There’s a fare matrix that has to be followed. You cannot go beyond. You’ll be suspended. Under the technical working group, there’s a fare matrix set there. We at Move It actually charge a bit less than that. So I don’t see how Grab’s acquisition of Move It could lead to higher fares.) – Rappler.com