Angkas eyes eventual return after IATF nod

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Popular ride-hailing app Angkas may return soon following the recommendation from the Inter-agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). The IATF’s nod came after Metro Manila mayors’ requested the government to continue the pilot study on motorcycle taxis.

IATF gives green light

“Inendorso ng IATF sa House of Representatives Committee on Transportation ang request ng mga local chief executives ng Metro manila para sa Department of Transportation (DOTr) na ituloy ang pilot study ng motorcycle taxis pending enactment of the appropriate legislation,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said during a press briefing last Oct. 6.

Last week, National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also affirmed his support in allowing Angkas back on the road to help increase the capacity of public transportation amid the pandemic.

Chief Testing Czar Vince Dizon also echoed the same sentiment.

“Recently, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Secretary Harry Roque, and I met with the President to allow a one-seat apart measurement in our mass transport system to increase our capacity. Part of our plan is to increase the number of vehicles especially ride-hailing motorcycle taxis which can increase capacity to provide services to more than 400,000 workers,” Galvez said.

Ready to get back

In response, hundreds of Angkas riders led a weekend motorcade along EDSA Extension in Pasay City to express their appreciation to the IATF-EID’s support. The riders also called on lawmakers to pass a bill allowing the operation of motorcycle taxis in the country.

“We are grateful and humbled by the government’s approval for Angkas to operate again and provide safe and efficient transportation to our riding public. We are ready and eager to serve especially our commuters who are required to go back to work but are faced with a critical shortage in public transportation. Angkas would be pleased to fill that gap so that we could safely ferry our passengers to their destinations,” Angkas Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca expresses.

Trouble with government regulators

On Nov. 2017, the government challenged the legality of Angkas’ operation after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LFTRB) suspended the ride-hailing app over lack of a business permit and safety concerns. In Jan. 2018, the House committees on transportation, public order, and safety held a hearing on the possible regulation of habal-habal as a mode of transportation. On September that year, Angkas resumed after the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court granted a preliminary injunction.

A Supreme Court (SC) order dated Dec. 5 issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) reversing the Mandaluyong RTC order. Two weeks later, 8,000 Angkas riders joined a Unity Ride from the People Power Monument in EDSA to Quezon Boulevard to protest the government ruling. Later that month, Angkas held the #SaveAngkas, a free thanksgiving concert, for its loyal riders and drivers. DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade then ordered the creation of a technical working group (TWG) to study the regulation of motorcycle taxis.

In May 2019, the DOTr approved a six-month pilot run for motorcycle ride-sharing services but Angkas lamented the provision that mandated it to cut down its fleet of 27,000 riders to comply with the cap. After the initial six-month run, the TWG extended the pilot study until Mar. 23, 2020 with the inclusion of two competitors, JoyRide and Move It.

Angkas was on the last leg of its pilot service run mid-March but the sudden lockdowns and strict implementation of safety protocols led to the general ban on pillion riding, Angkas included. The app only had a partial return back in Aug. 7 when Angkas pledged to provide free rides for healthcare workers in 10 hospitals. The free ride service lasted during the two-week duration of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila. Angkas also donated 1,000 government-approved motorcycle barriers.

On July, the National Task Force on COVID-19 force required the installation of motorcycle barriers or backpack-type plastic shields for couples living under the same household. But two months later, on Aug. 19, the NTF reversed its order and said that motorcycle riders and backrides living in the same house on areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) are no longer required to have barriers between them.

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