MANILA - Bills seeking to legalize motorcycle taxi operations in the Philippines are set for debates in the Senate plenary soon after lawmakers on Tuesday said it is time for legislation to "cope" with "public demand" and "technology."
There is a "clear demand" for motorcycle taxis with 18.8 million motorcycles in the Philippines, half of which are being used for transportation and delivery businesses, Senate Committee on Public Services Grace Poe told senators in plenary Tuesday.
"Legalization and regulation will help address safety risks present in both registered motorcycles-for-hire and the "colorums" or habal-habal," she said.
Under the Senate's proposed "Motorcycles-for-Hire Act," motorcycles must weigh less than 1,000 kilograms, can travel faster than 50 kph, and must have an engine at least 125 cc for it to be allowed to ferry passengers.
The measure also mandates all motorcycle taxi drivers to undergo training courses and secure special permits from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board before they could operate for public utility.
"It will also improve commuter welfare by giving them the option to choose legitimate service providers which will then encourage the habal-habal drivers to migrate to a regulated system in order to improve their services," she said.
'COPING WITH TECHNOLOGY'
The Senate should pass the proposed policy to enable existing laws to "cope" with technology, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who co-sponsored the bill, said in a separate statement.
"Throughout history, legislation has always marched behind technology. It has always been innovation first, regulation later," he said.
"In the case of airplanes, it did not have a smooth takeoff as a sanctioned passenger carrier... But you know what? From trains, to planes, to automobiles, it was government regulation which made them safe through the years," he said.
Recto said he is optimistic that the executive branch would back the bill, noting that President Rodrigo Duterte is a motorcycle enthusiast.
"The bike was and is apparently the ride of choice of the President. He is our biker-in-chief," Recto said.
"Although hundreds of CCs separate the bikes they ride, in general, what is good for the president must be good for the ordinary citizen," he said.
Earlier this year, transportation agencies held a pilot testing program for the motorcycle taxi industry by allowing a limited number of units to legally operate as public utility vehicles.
The program had recommended capping the number motorcycle taxi units per service provider to ensure competition within the industry, but the move earned criticism with some stakeholders alleging that transportation officials were playing favorites.