DOTr needs more time to review Angkas safety, legal issues

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said on Saturday, February 2, that it needs more time to allow motorcycle taxis to operate.

Lawmakers have argued that DOTr can just "issue a Department Order" to allow the likes of ride-hailing app Angkas and habal-habal (motorcycle taxis) to operate, similar to what the previous administration had done when ride-hailing giant Uber first came to the Philippines.

"The issue at hand cannot be likened to that of Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS), as cited by some senators and congressmen. A DO should always be based on existing laws," DOTr said.

The DOTr said that Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code specifically classified motorcycles as not for hire nor for public utility. (READ: Why Angkas is illegal)

"According to Republic Act 4136, passenger automobiles may be classified as either private or public ("for hire"), depending on its purpose. Thus, although TNVS units were initially classified as private vehicles, their transition to public transport only required a conversion to another classification," DOTr said.

"RA 4136 clearly does not allow motorcycles to be classified as "for hire" or for public utility," it added.

The transportation department reiterated its preference for a law amending RA 4136.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto earlier filed Senate Bill No. 2173 seeking to allow motorcycle taxis to operate. At the House of Representatives, House Bill No. 8959 or the Motorcycle-for-Hire Act was approved on second reading on January 30.

On the judicial front, DOTr also cited the Supreme Court's temporary restraining order allowing authorities to apprehend Angkas bikers operating illegally.

"Issuing a DO allowing motorcycle taxis to operate as public transport would go against the TRO issued by the Supreme Court, thereby exposing DOTr officials to criminal liability or contempt of court," the department said.

It maintained that it does "not intend to antagonize Angkas." It welcomed Angkas  and other motorcycle groups to a technical working group to discuss related issues.

To date, there are more than 27,000 Angkas drivers. Some groups have noted that illegal habal-habal transactions are sometimes done in Facebook groups, the largest of which have more than 200,000 members.

Patrons of motorcycle-hailing services have pressed the DOTr to allow Angkas and regulate habal-habal operations, citing the lack of mass transportation options. 

But transportation officials and advocates have long expressed concerns over the safety of motorcycle passengers. (READ: Habal-habal: Understanding the true cost of a cheap ride)

According to government data, a majority of vehicular crash incidents involve motorcycles. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority recorded a total of 21,403 incidents in 2016 – 203 of which led to deaths. (IN CHARTS: How deadly are Metro Manila roads?–

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.