Problems with Angkas began in 2017 when the Makati ordered for its closure when the company failed to present business permits during an inspection. Photograph by Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News
Culture Spotlight

Where did Angkas go wrong? A timeline

The Angkas versus the Philippine government narrative has probably lasted longer than some of your favorite shows on Netflix.
Gelo Dionora | Jan 24 2020

Whenever Angkas hits a roadblock toward legalization, the public is quick to rally their support. After all, ride-sharing app enjoys massive popular appeal, thanks to their hilarious antics on Twitter, and reported good track record in terms of safety and professionalism. More importantly, Angkas presents a glorious solution to the unfortunate carmaggedon plaguing Metro Manila—motorcycles are able to circumvent our world-famous vehicular traffic.

The past few months have seen the riding public at wit’s end. Just when you thought motorcycle taxi operations will proceed without a hitch (with stricter guidelines being enforced), new orders abruptly halt our dreams of riding through Manila in a breeze. The pilot run officially continues as of January 21—albeit being terminated for a few hours—but the future of Angkas remains uncertain.

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How did this cat-and-mouse dynamic between Angkas and regulatory groups begin in the first place? Here’s a rundown of the events starting with the first legal action taken by the involved parties:

 

November 9, 2017

The city government of Makati orders the closure of Angkas, following the ride-sharing app’s failure to present business permits during an inspection in the Angkas Training Center. Meanwhile, the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) also apprehends 19 Angkas drivers in Taguig, Makati, and Mandaluyong.

LTFRB board member Aileen Lozada announces to the media that Angkas is “considered closed.” The order also cites Republic Act 4136 (Land Transportation and Traffic Code), which says that motorcycles can only be registered as private vehicles, preventing them from being used for hire.

Angkas releases an official statement in response to the day’s events, reiterating that they are open for dialogue with transportation authorities regarding steps toward the regulation of motorcycle-taxis.

 

November 10, 2017

Angkas releases a call for unity on Twitter and the hashtag #OneWithAngkas, encouraging the public to join the company’s call for “inclusive and forward-thinking legislation.”

November 16, 2017

Angkas announces the impending suspension of their operations on Twitter.

 

November 18, 2017

Angkas officially suspends operations. They apologize to the LTFRB for any inconveniences caused, but reiterate their openness toward dialogue for transport regulation and modernization.

 

November 23, 2017

On their website, the LTFRB releases open invitations for all Angkas and habal-habal drivers to attend a dialogue with the board on December 12, 2017, at the LTFRB Central Office. They also send out invitations for a whole-day job fair and livelihood orientation on December 13, 2017, organized in collaboration with the Department of Labor and Employment.

 

December 12, 2017

During the dialogue, Lozada assures Angkas management and drivers that their concerns, as well as a proposal from the ride-sharing app, will be passed to Congress. While operations are still suspended, David Medrana of Angkas promises to provide financial assistance to 15,000 Angkas drivers in Metro Manila and Cebu.

 

December 15, 2017

Angkas posts a teaser of Angkas Padala on Twitter.

 

December 18, 2017

Angkas relaunches as Angkas Padala, a roadside delivery service. Operations run from Mondays to Sundays, from 7AM to 10PM.

 

January 24, 2018

The House committees on transportation, public order, and safety hold a hearing on the possible regulation of habal-habal. Among the suggestions made include the amendment of Philippine laws to allow local government units, instead of the national government, to impose standards on “habal-habal.”

 

March 31, 2018

House Deputy Minority Leader Luis Campos Jr. proposes Go-Jek, an Indonesian ride-hailing app, as a worthy competitor of Grab in the Philippines, following the latter transport network company’s acquisition of Uber. With their signature wit on social media, Angkas expresses their dismay on Twitter.

 

June 6, 2018

A panel from the House of Representatives met with the Department of Transportation (DOTr), local government units, motorcycle groups, and other government agencies, encouraging the DOTr to allow motorcycles to provide ride-sharing services. Quezon City 2nd District Representative Winston Castelo leads the House committee and discussions.

 

September 6, 2018

Angkas is back on the road. The Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court grants a preliminary injunction, preventing transport regulatory groups from interfering with Angkas’ operations and their riders. The DOTr and LTFRB release a joint statement reiterating their disappointment toward the court ruling.

 

October 16, 2018

A Twitter outrage ensues when a photo of Angkas drivers gathering at the Commission of Election in support of Bong Go circulates. The then-senatorial hopeful and presidential aide was expected to file his certificate of candidacy on the same day.

On Twitter, Angkas quickly reiterates that while they do not have any direct political connections, they will not hinder their drivers to freely express their beliefs.

Shortly after, Angkas CEO Angeline Tham releases an official statement. While they still uphold their drivers’ freedom of expression, they promise to remind drivers not to talk about personal political beliefs while on duty and to refrain from wearing the official Angkas helmet and uniform when attending political events or rallies.

 

November 25, 2018

Angkas launches “Angkas Buhay,” the country’s first motorcycle ambulance service.

 

December 12, 2018

A Supreme Court (SC) order dated December 5 issues a temporary restraining order (TRO) on a Mandaluyong court’s ruling to allow Angkas riders to hit the road again. The DOTr and LTFRB welcome the SC’s decision, with the latter immediately ordering enforcers to apprehend Angkas vehicles operating as public utility vehicles. Angkas expresses its dismay, citing how the untimely ruling will endanger the livelihood of 25,000 bikers and make it difficult for commuters to beat the holiday traffic.

 

December 14, 2018

Angkas spokesperson George Royeca reiterates in a press briefing that Angkas will continue operations, citing that the TRO issued by the SC concerns the preliminary injunction, not the legality of Angkas itself. Despite the order to arrest the ride-sharing app’s bikers, Angkas management vows to protect and uphold their drivers’ rights.

 

December 16, 2018

Thousands of Angkas bikers gather for a Unity Ride protesting the government ruling toward the ride-sharing app. Over 8,000 drivers ride to and from the People Power Monument in EDSA to Quezon Boulevard. Angkas CEO Angeline Tham joins in solitary with their riders.

 

December 20, 2018

DOTr releases a statement saying that while they are willing to hear out to Angkas’ concerns, the ride-sharing app must also learn to listen and stop brazenly defying the SC. The department sends Angkas a few points to consider regarding safety and operation guidelines for motorcycles as public utility vehicles.

 

December 22, 2018

Angkas holds #SaveAngkas, a free thanksgiving concert, for its loyal riders and drivers. The event gathers droves of fans and the country’s prominent music stars, such as Nadine Lustre, Gab Valenciano, and Sam Concepcion, at the Quezon City Circle Main Stage.

 

December 26, 2018

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade orders the creation of a technical working group (TWG) to discuss the regulation of motorcycle taxis. The group will be composed of representatives from DOTr, LTFRB, the Philippine National Police—Highway Patrol Group, the Metro Manila Development Authority, the Senate, the House of Representatives, commuter welfare groups, road safety advocates, motorcycle manufacturers, motorcycle organizations, and law schools.

 

January 25, 2019

Senator Ralph Recto files Senate Bill 2173, which classifies public utility motorcycles as vehicles with engines of at least 125 cc and can travel faster than 50 kilometers per hour. The bill seeks to lift the ban on two-wheeled vehicles as public transport. Recto notes that the legalization will help protect both drivers and rider ND provide livelihood opportunities for more Filipinos. He also makes a case for how habal-habal is the only viable means of transport in certain rural areas with challenging terrain.

 

January 30, 2019

In a Senate hearing, Recto questions why the DOTr has not yet issued a department order (DO) allowing two-wheel vehicles to be used as public transport.

The senator recalls that a DO was issued back in 2015 to allow services like Grab and Uber to operate when they first came to the Philippines. Prior to the DO, the Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, prohibited private cars and motorcycles to be fore hire. The new DO introduced the Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) Group, a category that allows privately-owned vehicles to offer rides by simply registering these cars with the LTFRB and follow new safety guidelines. However, this order did not include motorcycles.

Transportation Undersecretary Mark de Leon retorts, saying that legal, judicial, and safety issues must be addressed prior to issuing a DO.

At the end of 2019, the Department of Transportation says that the six month pilot run it is conducting with Angkas will be extended. Photograph by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

February 2, 2019

The DOTr releases a statement saying that they need more time in allowing motorcycles to operate as a means of public transport. According to the department, at the legal front, issuing a DO will run against the existing Land Transportation and Traffic Code; hence, they recommend passing a law amending RA 4136. On the judicial side, the potential DO will clash with the existing TRO issued by the SC, exposing DOTr officials to criminal liability or contempt of court.

 

February 4, 2019

The House of Representatives approves House Bill (HB) 8959. If passed into law, the measure will amend RA 4136 to include motorcycles as a legal means of public transport. Under the bill, the DOTr and the LTFRB will be responsible for setting and adjusting reasonable fares, as well as mandating routes and boundaries for drivers.

 

February 11, 2019

The DOTr and House of Representatives agree to push through with a proposed pilot run for motorcycle ride-sharing services. De Leon says that the TWG is in the process of finalizing implementing rules and regulations for the pilot run. Once drafted, the proposal will be sent to Tugade for approval.

 

May 4, 2019

Angkas holds the “Angkas Safety Fiesta,” offering free seminars, services, and entertainment to thousands of the ride-sharing app’s riders. Filled with accredited Angkas drivers and applicants, the event also accommodated speeches from then-senatorial hopefuls such as Grace Poe, Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, JV Ejercito, and Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa.

 

May 10, 2019

Angkas is back. The DOTr approves the 6-month pilot operations for motorcycle taxis. Riders are warned to follow stringent safety measures while the department thoroughly studies policies and guidelines for motorcycle taxis during the six-month run.

These measures include drivers donning reflectorized gear and branded uniforms, a maximum speed limit of 60 kilometers per hour, and a monthly report on passenger complaints and road crashes, if any. As per DOTr, data collected will be used to determine whether motorcycle taxis will be legitimized as a means of transportation in the country.

Angkas eagerly welcomes the decision in an official statement posted on Twitter.

 

June 13, 2019

Angkas discloses in a press briefing that they have re-trained 12,000 riders and will continue working with 15,000 more to hopefully employ 27,000 drivers in the six-month pilot run. The company hopes to start operating again by the third or last week of June.

 

July 22, 2019

The Skyway Operations and Maintenance Corporation announces that motorcycles with an engine displacement of less than 400cc are prohibited from using the northbound and southbound lanes of Osmeña Highway, from Sales Bridge in Pasay to Magallanes Interchange in Makati, Quirino Avenue in Manila, and Taguig. Confusion abounds during the first day of implementation: in Makati, Skyway temporarily lifts the ban, but police kept apprehending riders. In Taguig, both Skyway and traffic enforcers faced difficulties in stopping motorcycle drivers.

 

July 24, 2019

Angkas and other motorcycle groups question the aforementioned ban. The prohibition forces riders to take Pasong Tamon and Pasong Tamo extension instead, increasing travel time by as much as 45 minutes.

 

July 31, 2019

Angkas draws flak for tweeting a promotion likening the ride-sharing app to sex, complete with a sexually suggestive promo code. Netizens and even the PNP vehemently react to the marketing ploy, citing how the distasteful tweet endangers public safety within the transport network business. A day later, Angkas releases an official statement apologizing for their earlier gaffe.

 

September 23, 2019

Senator Risa Hontiveros meets with 1,000 Angkas riders to promote a culture of safety and gender sensitivity among motorcycle riders and the general public. The proponent of the Safe Spaces Law, also known as the Bawal Bastos Law, encourages Angkas drivers to be ambassadors of safe spaces, citing their track record of professionalism and good service. Hontiveros reiterates that this will be achieved through more gender-sensitivity training sessions.

 

October 2, 2019

Angkas spokesperson George Royeca calls on the government to provide more training sessions for two-wheel vehicle riders to help curb the high rate of motorcycle-related deaths in the country. Royeca notes that their own training program in Angkas delivers a 99.997 percent safety rate; hence, a similar nationwide initiative will be capable of curtail accident and mortality rates.

 

October 8, 2019

Students and other commuters fall in line for the free ride offered by Angkas at the Recto Avenue station of the LRT2 in Manila on October 8, 2019. Photograph by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Fires sparked between Katipunan and Anonas station, prompting repairs and partial closure of the LRT2’s routes. Angkas earns praise on Twitter after offering free rides for commuters affected by the shutdown.

 

October 20, 2019

While not yet operational, JoyRide poses a potential threat to Angkas, beefing up its roster of drivers to around 5,000. The new ride-sharing app’s Facebook page says that recruitment has begun since September of this year, promising riders and income of PHP 1,500 per day.

 

December 4, 2019

With the upcoming end of the pilot run on December 26, Angkas hopes to continue operations even with the absence of a law allowing motorcycles as public transport. As per the DOTr’s guidelines, the TWG assigned for the evaluation of the pilot run may extend the six-month period if deemed necessary. The results are expected to be presented in Congress by January 2020.

 

December 8, 2019

As per DOTr Undersecretary De Leon, Secretary Tugade orders the extension of the six-month pilot run, saying that Tugade himself wishes to extend the pilot implementation to other operators. The official report regarding the run will come out on December 9; Tugade has submitted his recommendations to the LTFRB, but will wait for the release of the report to make his official statement.

 

December 10, 2019

The assigned TWG also recommends a six-month extension of the pilot run to allow new operators to participate. A decision will be announced on December 20, as per  LTFRB Technical Division chief and TWG spokesperson Joel Bolano.

 

December 20, 2019

MoveIt and JoyRide, two new players in the motorcycle ride-sharing service, join Angkas in the extended pilot run from December 23, 2019 to March 23, 2020. An overall cap of 39,000 riders will be imposed across all three providers during the extension. Other amendments to the guidelines include the revoking of dynamic pricing (1.5x surge cap).

 

December 21, 2019

Angkas releases an official statement regarding the extension of the pilot run, the reduction of the ride-sharing app’s drivers on the road, and why it has been difficult to book lately. To comply with the cap, from 27,000 riders, Angkas is ordered to downsize to only 10,000 drivers.

#SaveAngkas trends worldwide, with netizens slamming the government for this ruling, and praising Angkas riders as kind and polite. In response, the TWG head, Antonio Gardiola, Jr. of the LTFRB, says that displaced Angkas bikers may be absorbed by the two newcomers, JoyRide and MoveIt.

 

December 22, 2019

Heated sentiments arise during the press conference and rally organized by Angkas, both on-site and online. More than 20,000 riders lined up along White Plains and EDSA, ending the rally at Quezon City Circle.

In response to Gardiola’s statement, Jobert Bolanos, Chairman of the Motorcycle Rights Organization, says that the chances of relocating displaced Angkas drivers to the two new players are slim, as the other ride-sharing apps have their own pool of riders already and have actively started recruitment prior. Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera calls on the Philippine Competition Commision (PCC) to intervene amid the claims of absorption by the two new ride-sharing app players.

Angkas drivers present at the rally also said that they wouldn’t want to work for other motorcycle taxi apps. Solid Manila Riders Club chairman and Angkas driver Romeo Maglunsod foresees that displaced drivers may return to illegal work instead of being absorbed by JoyRide & Move It. Most Angkas drivers are former habal-habal drivers, he says, who are grateful for the livelihood opportunities and support that the ride-sharing company has extended toward them. It would be unlikely for these riders, who have established a good partnership with Angkas, to easily leave and jump ship. 

Senator Imee Marcos also joins the protests. On stage, she rallies public support for Senate Bill 409, an act that recognizes motorcycles as public utility vehicles. Marcos introduced the bill to Senate last July 2019. Her presence at the rally infuriates netizens. Users took to Twitter to express disappointment over Angkas providing the senator a platform during the event.

 

December 23, 2019

In response to the rally and sentiments online regarding the displacement of over 17,000 riders, the TWG overseeing the motorcycle pilot run reiterates that the study is less concerned with livelihood opportunities. Rather, they are focused on determining whether motorcycles are a viable mode of public transportation or not. While the run is ongoing, the TWG will still not consider this means of transport as safe and legal.

Gardiola says that Angkas is “overreacting” to the three-player situation for the pilot run. He reiterates that the ride-sharing app options are instruments for the study. The reduction of Angkas’ fleet, he says, underscores the thought that Angkas is more concerned with the profit they’ll earn from the pilot run rather than the study and its eventual findings.

As per the TWG, “in the spirit of Christmas,” they will not immediately terminate Angkas riders beyond the 13,000-driver cap imposed. Gardiola tells the press that Angkas has until the first week of January to submit their list of accredited riders. If JoyRide and Move It cannot fill the 13,000-cap, the TWG may allow Angkas to fill the gap.

A vehicle from the new motorcycle taxi player JoyRide traverses along EDSA in Quezon City on January 6, 2020. Photograph by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Angkas spokesperson George Royeca blasts Gardiola and the TWG’s statements, saying that it is unfair to claim the ride-sharing company as profit-oriented when Angkas has trained bikers for free, developed an infrastructure for riders for over three  years, and gave free rides in times of need. He reiterates that the issue at hand is about safety, not business. The TWG immediately responds to Royeca’s statements, accusing Angkas of “emotional blackmail.”

 

December 26, 2019

The PCC says that displacing 17,000 from Angkas takes away a driver base that was “rightfully obtained” by the ride-sharing company. The commission appeals to LTFRB to come up with alternative options instead of forcing riders to choose between the new ride-sharing apps.

 

December 28, 2019

Reports of Angkas activity in Cagayan de Oro and General Santos City—places not included in the pilot run—prompt the TWG to accuse Angkas of breaching the terms of reference set forth by the regulatory group.

Royeca claims that the cities gave their blessing to operate in the locale, and that CDO had a local ordinance allowing motorcycle taxi operations. TWG reiterates, however, that LGUs cannot go above national law, and that should motorcycle taxis be legalized, Angkas may be blacklisted because of this breach.

 

January 3, 2020

Senator Koko Pimentel reveals in a press statement that he endorsed JoyRide’s letter of application to the DOTr last September 2019 with the idea of ending Angkas’ monopoly in mind. He maintains that his endorsement did not have anything to do with the new player’s advancement to the extended pilot run, saying that the DOTr did not accommodate JoyRide nor his endorsement during the initial six-month period.

In response to Pimentel’s statement, the Lawyers for Commuter Safety and Protection (LCSP) declare their intent to file graft charges against the TWG for “serious irregularities” in their decision-making. The LCSP asks for an explanation regarding the selection of JoyRide and Move It, noting that a total of nine other groups applied to join the pilot run, but were barred by the TWG. The group also considers filing an ethics complaint against Pimentel for his endorsement.

 

January 4, 2020

The TWG releases a statement on the Facebook page of the Department of Transportation regarding threats and statements made in a press conference by LCSP the against the TWG and Pimentel. Amid the claims in the post, the TWG points out how the LCSP did not “take up the issue of Angkas and its serious violations and transgressions which reveals how it has been treating the MC Taxi Service Pilot Run as its own business feasibility study.” Part of the breaches outlined in TWG’s statement include the continued application of surge fees, operations in places outside the limitations of the pilot run, and Angkas’ non-disclosure of the company being “a 99 percent foreign-owned corporation, operating contrary to existing Philippine laws that common carriers should be at least 60 percent owned by Filipinos.”

Two days ago, Senator Koko Pimentel called for Angeline Tham to be declared as persona non grata. Photograph by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

January 6, 2020

A Mandaluyong regional trial court issues a 72-hour temporary restraining order against the cap on motorcycle taxis set by the TWG.

 

January 8, 2020

Following the threat of being blacklisted, Royeca apologizes to authorities for the events that transpired in the last few weeks. However, Angkas maintains its position on many policies that serve their riders.

Royeca appeals to regulators, asking them to consider allowing dynamic pricing again. The spokesperson emphasizes that the surge functions as an incentive for drivers who service passengers during peak hours. If they are not amenable to dynamic pricing, Royeca pushes for leniency on the rider cap instead.

In response to claims of foreign ownership, Royeca reiterates that he has a 60 percent stake in the company. Meanwhile, the app update for Angkas causes problems for some users, pointing out challenges in booking and app errors.

 

January 9, 2020

Angkas includes a Weight Safety Check feature in their app update. This follows the government’s guidelines on motorcycle safety, requiring the appropriate rider and motorcycle specifications to different weight categories. Motorists may have the right to decline heavy passengers in the interest of safety.

A Quezon City Regional Trial Court denies Angkas’ petition to deny JoyRide and Move It to join the extended pilot run. The same court also orders a 20-day temporary restraining order against the implementation of the revised guidelines of the three-month run, specifically the cap on bikers per provider, which may cause “irreparable injury” if enacted.

A day later, Angkas clarifies that passenger weight is not yet being factored into bookings, and that the app is still on its data collection phase.

 

January 16, 2020

Amid the back-and-forths with the government, Angkas lends a hand during relief operations in Batangas following the eruption of Taal Volcano.

A Mandaluyong court denies Angkas’ petition for another TRO against the rider cap.

 

January 20, 2020

The TWG pushes to end the motorcycle taxi pilot run. Gardiola tells reporters that their recommendation is endorsed by DOTr Secretary Tugade. TWG blames Angkas for the termination, citing the ride-sharing company’s legal actions undertaken and open defiance toward guidelines set by the regulator group. Gardiola says that all motorcycle taxis will be illegal starting next week. Senator Grace Poe slams the TWG for recommending to end the study without adequate data.

 

January 21, 2020

The TWG retracts its statement regarding the termination of the pilot run. Gardiola says that the sentiments of the senators, particularly that of Senator Bong Go, urged him to continue the pilot run. Their group will proceed with their dialogue with providers, guided by Transport secretary Tugade, as they come up with guidelines. Meanwhile, Angkas insists that they are compliant with the guidelines of the TWG.

 

January 22, 2020

Pimentel urges the Senate to declare Angkas CEO Angeline Tham as “persona non grata” and investigate her actions to review current Philippine laws and prevent similar occurrences in the future. The senator’s petition filed January 16 slams Angkas for staging “mass indignation rides,” therefore paralyzing Metro Manila traffic. It also positions Angkas riders as vehement protesters against the inclusion of two new ride-sharing apps, though previous statements have reiterated that Angkas is against the cap. Pimentel also lambasts Angkas’ statement regarding the loss of 17,000 jobs, claiming this as “false information” as they can choose to be assimilated by the new rider apps. Finally, the senator writes that Tham is “already acting like an oligarch which she seems hell-bent on becoming at our expense.”

January 23, 2020

Pimentel reiterates that his resolution will not affect Angkas’ operations. The focus, he says, is on how Tham, a foreign national, violated the laws of the country. Online, netizens call out Pimentel for lobbying against Angkas to make room for JoyRide, which he previously endorsed. Senate Economic Affairs Committee chair Imee Marcos also cautions against the blacklisting of Tham, saying that the move might scare foreign investors. Marcos calls for alternative ways to implement better regulations for motorcycle taxis.