More than 5,000 Angkas bikers took to the streets last Sunday to show their gratitude to the government after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases gave the go-signal for motorcycle taxi operations to resume.
The IATF decision came following appeals from the riding public, Angkas riders, Cabinet secretaries and lawmakers from both the House and the Senate.
In the Senate, one of the staunchest supporters of the resumption of motorcycle taxis operation is Senate Pro Tempore, Senator Ralph Recto.
Recto said allowing motorcyle taxis to resume operations will save jobs, expand transport options “without need for government bailout.”
The senator said that motorcycle taxis will expand the transport options of millions and restore the livelihood of tens of thousands..
“This is one job-creating public service that will not cost the government a single centavo,” Recto said.
“Airline fleets are mostly grounded, and the few flying are cruising on the dangerously low altitude of funds. In contrast, motorcycle taxis are ready to ferry people to work at a moment’s notice without need for a government financial push,” he said.
Recto added that theoretically, one motorcycle taxi driver back on the road is one ‘ayuda’ recipient off the list, Recto said. “And a big chunk of the cost of gas they buy are taxes that help pay for health services.”
“They have not been asking for Christmas bonus. Their only simple wish is for the government to allow them to go back to their job so their Christmas won’t be bitter,” he added.
But Recto said motorcycle taxis should only be allowed on the road again if they will meet “stringent health and safety standards” the government will impose.
“This part is non-negotiable. If barriers, face masks and face shields, disinfected helmets are necessary to protect rider and driver, then these should be made mandatory,” he said.
Recto also urged health experts “to study if the three layers of protection provided by a barrier, a helmet and a face mask worn by both driver and rider in an open air setting are as safe as the inside of a closed air-conditioned bus that has 25 passengers.”
Recto has been advocating for “safe public transportation” as the key to restarting an economy the pandemic has flattened.
“Transport is in the league of treat, track and trace. Breadwinners have to earn. They have to go to work in safe transport which does not give space for coronavirus to hitch a ride,” he said.
This, he said, is reflected on the national adult joblessness rate which soared to 45.5 percent of the labor force in July, per a survey of the Social Welfare Station.
“This corresponds to 27.3 million jobless Filipinos,” he said. “One culprit is the lack of transportation. We’ve given too much focus on ease of doing business for corporations. We should also find ways on how there can be ease of going to work for employees.”
Meanwhile, riders traversed Taguig to Quezon City and then back south to Pasay in a unity ride on EDSA, as they expressed their collective gratitude to Congress, the IATF, the Department of Transportation, and President Rodrigo Duterte, for being given an opportunity to safely support the reopening of the economy.
The IATF earlier endorsed to the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation the request of the National Capital Region’s local chief executives asking that the Department of Transportation to continue the pilot study of motorcycle taxis. Metro Manila mayors had called for the resumption of motorcycle taxi services since they were vital to ferrying frontliners at the height of the pandemic. No case of viral transmission had been reported during the free transport service Angkas did for medical frontliners.
Congress, through the House transportation committee, earlier expressed its support in the continued pilot run pending a resolution that would legitimize motorcycle taxis as a form of public transportation.
“Taos puso po kaming nagpapasalamat sa lahat ng congressmen, laluna kay Cong. Edgar Mary Sarmiento po at sa lahat ng mambabatas na nagtitiwala sa kakayahan ng Angkas laluna sa aming mga bikers, laluna rin po na Pangulong Duterte, IATF at DOTr na mabigyan ng pagkakataon kaming Angkas bikers na bigyan ng hanapbuhay at makatulong sa lahat ng naiipit sa traffic,” said Ryan Rillera, the president of motorcycle rider organization Taguig Spartans.
An Angkas partner-driver himself, Rillera added, “Napakalaking bagay po nito sa lahat ng Angkas drivers na libu-libo ang nagtitiwala sa amin mula noon hanggang ngayon. Tatlong taon na po ako sa ganitong hanapbuhay, hindi po kami pinabayaan ng Angkas. Maraming salamat po.”
In compliance with the IATF rules against mass gatherings, the Angkas bikers rode continuously in their thanksgiving ride with no stopovers until they reached their final destination at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay.
Four Cabinet secretaries have also voiced their support for the resumption of motorcycle taxis. Presidential Spokesperson Sec. Harry Roque, Chief Implementer of the National Task Force against COVID-19 Sec. Carlito Galvez, and Department of Interior and Local Government Sec. Eduardo Año met with President Duterte to flesh out a plan to increase capacity in the mass transport system, a critical component of which involves increasing the number of ride-hailing motorcycle taxis.
Moreover, T3 czar Sec. Vince Dizon lauded Angkas Chief Transportation Advocate George Royeca for his commitment to ensuring a safe reopening of the economy through his work with the Ingat Angat campaign, of which Angkas plays a key role in the promotion of safe transportation for workers and consumers during the pandemic.
Angkas has also been working closely with public health experts to guarantee the safety of riders and passengers alike against the virus, resulting in a comprehensive study by the University of the Philippines-College of Public Health which not only deems motorcycle taxis safe but also provides overall strategies and recommendations for the transport industry as a whole.
With the government’s expressed support and a potential return to regular operations happening soon, Royeca noted that Angkas is setting gears into motion and preparing all of its bikers to ensure safe and smooth operations.
“Now that the economy is slowly and safely reopening, 60% of workers are mandated to physically go back to work. However, there are only 40% public transportation that is available to them. Angkas would be happy to bridge that gap,”Royeca said.
He added, “We are also encouraged by the bikers’ voluntary thank-you ride to our government. All of us stand ready to provide safe transportation to the public and help restore their lives to normal while reopening the economy and restoring consumer confidence.”
“We look forward to the day when we can start serving the public again,” he reiterated.
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