Motorcycle ride-hailing service Angkas, together with other companies offering habal-habal (“motorcycle for hire”) services, have been given an ultimatum of three (3) more months — until March 23, 2020 — afterwards, they can only operate if new legislation is passed allowing such service.
This comes after an announcement from the technical working group (TWG) of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) saying the pilot run of motorcycle taxis in the Philippines, set to end originally on December 26, have been extended for one final run ending with finality on March 23, 2020.
Can operate until March 23, 2020 only
After March 23, 2020, the TWG will terminate its study and will submit a report to Congress which will decide whether a new law will be passed allowing Angkas and other motorcycle ride-hailing apps to operate in the country.
Under current Philippine laws, motorcycles are not allowed as a form of public transportation. Thus, Angkas and similar habal-habal services are technically illegal, but only given exemption by the LTFRB while the latter is conducting the pilot study.
After March 23, 2020 if no law is approved allowing motorcycle-for-hire to legally operate in the country, Angkas and similar companies will not be allowed by the LTFRB to transport passengers.
The goal of the TWG is to analyze and evaluate motorcycle taxi services and motorcycle ride-hailing apps so that they can make a proposal to Congress regarding legislation that will pave the way for motorcycles to be considered as public utility vehicles in the Philippines.
It’s not going to be a smooth ride in the next 3 months, though, especially for Angkas.
Last December 22, 2019, thousands of Angkas bikers staged a protest in Quezon City calling for the government and the public to “#SaveAngkas” after the LTFRB announced that it is setting a cap on the number of allowed bikers per TNVS (Transportation Network Vehicle Service), ultimately reducing Angkas’ share in the limit.
Under LTFRB’s newly approved rules, Angkas will have to share the biker limit of 39,000 with two new providers during the extended pilot run from December 2019 until March 2020. During the first pilot run, as the only motorcycle ride-hailing app in the country, Angkas was allowed to accommodate and train up to 27,000 bikers.
Two (2) new companies have now been approved to join the extended pilot run until March 2020: JoyRide and Move It.
The three TNVS companies was awarded by LTFRB to have 13,000 allowed riders each — 10,000 bikers for Metro Manila and 3,000 bikers for Metro Cebu.
The #SaveAngkas protest rally emerged after Angkas indicated that the reduction in their biker limit could cause 17,000 Angkas bikers to be unemployed.
On December 21, 2019, Angkas’ Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca posted a letter on their Facebook page which lamented the LTFRB decision. The Angkas post goes:
Coming into this pilot, 27,000 ang bikers namin, many of whom have been with us serving you the public since 2017. Sila ay ang mga beterano, mga magagaling na bayaning matagal niyo nang pinagkakatiwalaang itawid kayo sa pagn-araw-araw na perwisyo ng traffic.
Ngayon, sa halip na kami ay dagdagan, nagpasya ang LTFRB na bawasan pa ang Angkas bikers mula sa 27,000 hanggang 10,000 na lamang. That’s a compromise to the quality of service you can expect, and A DIRECT BLOW TO OVER 17,000 FILIPINO FAMILIES.
Kahit patawa at balasubas kami sa social media, we prioritize the safety of our passengers and the welfare of our bikers, which will now become much harder to do with these new rules. The traffic in our thoroughfares is getting heavier each day, and there are more and more commuters to serve as time goes by.
Bakit kailangang bawasan at tanggalan ng trabaho ang mga bikers natin? Bakit kailangang parusahan ang mga bikers na nakapag-training at napatunayan na ang galing sa daan?
Help us #SaveAngkas so we and our bikers can help save you again every day.”
Chief Transport Advocate
TWG’s Open Letter to Angkas
As a response, TWG lambasted Angkas’ social media post and described the protest rally that ensued as “emotional blackmail” and called out the company for their “improper and self serving disposition and position.”
On December 23, the TWG posted on the LTFRB Facebook page a fiery response to Angkas. Their full reply is shown below.
Dear Mr. George Royeca,
This is with reference to the recent statements, actuations and public relations efforts being made by Angkas on the issue of the Motorcycle Ride-Hailing Service, WHICH IS STILL UNDER GOVERNMENT STUDY as to its feasibility and propriety as a public transportation option.
It is quite unfortunate that ANGKAS has made a public spectacle, and has resorted to emotional blackmail in its attempt to cement its foothold on this transport service.
It is one thing to make an assiduous representation to state your case and your points on the matter, but it is another thing to use the issue as a forum to protect your vested interest at the expense of the government, which has nothing but the overall public interest in mind.
In the interest of true transparency, allow us to address the issues you have brought out in the court of public opinion.
On the matter of job displacement and loss of livelihood of your riders, it is not true that your 17,000 ride partners will be displaced. On the contrary, they actually have the option to choose the best employment/partnership terms either from you, or the two other participants in the program, JoyRide and Move It.
In fact, there is a need to hire more as the Technical Working Group (TWG) has recommended to increase the pilot run participants to 39,000 from the current 27,000 now in place.
Your argument that 17,000 out of your 27,000 riders will be deprived of their livelihood does not hold water, as they are the prospects of JoyRide and Move It. For Angkas to claim the 17,000 as their own is in itself curtailment and infringement of the right of the rider to seek the best employment opportunity.
The fact remains that you want exclusivity with these riders to establish a monopoly. That, Sir, is unacceptable, and that is precisely what the government is trying to avoid at all cost. This is our 2nd and most anthemic point – THERE CAN BE NO MONOPOLY in the Motorcycle Taxi Service as this goes against public interest. What the government wants to promote is healthy competition among service providers, to ensure that the commuter can avail of the best choice.
Thirdly, we wish to reiterate that the Motorcyle Taxi Service program is still on PILOT RUN basis, and that you still do not have an official transport franchise. We are extending the Pilot Run as we deem it necessary to give us the opportunity to fully assess the program and how best it will serve the commuter.
Your participation is a privilege that the government has extended, and it should not be construed as a right to impose or demand monopolistic provisions that will be detrimental to the program in the long run.
The TWG would like to reiterate and remind everyone that the Motorcycle Taxi Program is still a transportation concept being thoroughly tested and assessed for its long term viability and adaptability in our public transportation sphere.
We are extending the Pilot Run and introducing tweaks and system changes, including the addition of new service providers, to better equip us with a full understanding of the impact of the program to all stakeholders, most especially to the commuter, and how it will be a better and SAFE public transportation alternative.
An integral part of the Pilot Run extension will be the development of a registration and feedback mechanism to establish commuter buy-in and acceptability of the program, as well gauging the overall ride experience. There is also a need to adopt an audit system which will institute performance and regulatory compliance metrics for the service providers.
All these considerations are on the table because we reiterate that the issue involves PUBLIC INTEREST, and not simply a business enterprise.
We therefore wish to call out Angkas and its improper and self serving disposition and position. We are so disappointed and aghast at the temerity of Angkas to hostage the Pilot Run, as if it is an exclusive business endeavor that cannot be altered without its assent.
We deplore these underhanded tactics by Angkas, which have now severely strained the credibility not only of the program, but also of government. But, what Angkas fails to mention is that it is not even fully compliant with the directive to submit its actual listing of riders to the TWG as required early in the initial phase of the pilot run, as it can only provide an excel sheet submission of rides per day from June to December sans any analysis or executive summary.
In fact, despite the guidelines set by the TWG for the registration of authorized riders, Angkas has only submitted 2,204 authorized riders as of today, a far cry from its claim of 27,000 rider partners.
Perhaps, it is also a fair assumption to state that Mr. Royeca, who remained silent in consultative meetings and sessions, and who expressed amenability to the entry of Joy Ride and Move it, as well the cap provided, is really more concerned with losing at least P170,000 per day (pegged at a very conservative one ride per day only) in potential income if the 17,000 riders will move out of Angkas (based on 27,000 x P50/ride a day), which is why now he is drumming up the imagined suppression and unfair treatment of Angkas.
At this point, what is becoming clear is that Angkas is not really concerned with the pilot study and the livelihood of its riders. It is only concerned with the livelihood of its owners.
With only the best interest of the riding public in mind,
Motorcycle Taxi TWG
Sen. Bong Go owns JoyRide?
While the word war between Angkas and the TWG is ongoing, social media was ablaze last week with rumors that administration senator Bong Go is one of the owners of the new player, JoyRide, which supposedly explains why the LTFRB seems to be favoring new companies while putting first-mover player Angkas at a disadvantage.
Sen. Bong Go, however, denied the rumors branding such as “fake news”.
In an interview with Manila Bulletin, Bong Go explains: “Hindi totoo yung kumakalat sa Twitter at ibang social media outlets na ako daw ang may-ari or may interes ako sa JoyRide, isa sa mga bagong players. Fake news po ito.”
In a separate statement, the senator again denied his association with JoyRide: “Sa totoo lang, ngayon ko lang narinig ang kumpanyang JoyRide na iyan. Kung meron mang gumagamit ng pangalan ko or nagsasabing kaanak ni Pangulo upang isulong ang inyong pang-negosyong interes, automatically denied kaagad ang inyong application.”
The company JoyRide also issued and posted an official statement on its Facebook page denying the rumor.
With all this chaos on Angkas and other motorcycle ride-hailing apps, what can we expect to happen after March 23, 2020? Well, unless a new law is approved allowing motorcycle-for-hire services, it is likely that the LTFRB will start to police and disallow Angkas by then.
But will it ultimately be the end for Angkas? No one knows. Brace yourself for a whirlwind of a ride.