Motorcycle backriding to be allowed once IATF sets guidelines

The national government will soon allow backriding in motorcycles and has tasked transportation agencies to draw up guidelines to keep the practice safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presidential Spokesman and national coronavirus task force spokesman Harry Roque announced this on Saturday, June 20.

It is among the decisions reached by the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) as recorded in its 47th resolution.

"This mode of transportation is hereinafter allowed in principle, upon the approval of the requirements set" by a group of government agencies, reads the document.

The agencies in charge of crafting the guidelines are the Department of Transportation, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and the Departement of Trade and Industry.

These agencies are supposed to "determine the safest and most effective manner to reduce the rate of transmission" when backriding.

Heated debate. The national task force's decision on this matter has been highly anticipated given the intense back-and-forth among officials both internally and in public.

Local government officials, like Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, had publicly appealed to the task force to allow backriding at least for couples since they live in the same house.

Motorcycles are used by many low-income wage earners and the need for this form of transportation became even greater when public transportation was suspended. Several people with no option but to share a motorcycle to get to work risked arrest, as in the case of a father and son who were detained – though later released without paying a fine – in Pangasinan. 

Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia went as far as issuing an executive order allowing it in her province, which she took back after President Rodrigo Duterte himself said backriding remains prohibited.

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr even submitted a design for a non-porous transparent barrier between motorcycle driver and backrider, in the hopes of getting government to greenlight backriding.

For months, the national task force did not budge, saying it was impossible for physical distancing to be observed in motorcycles. The same reason was given for the continued prohibition on traditional jeeps.

Despite the task force's decision, it might be too early to think popular motorcycle backriding app Angkas would be allowed to accept passengers. This would largely depend on the guidelines to be set forth by the government.

The riding public continues to demand more transportation options given the strain on public transportation caused by measures like physical distancing. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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