Transport group warns of underground ‘habal-habal’ ops

MANILA A newly-formed transport safety movement is pushing for the regulation of underground "habal-habal" operators that utilize Facebook to offer rides to prospective clients.

This comes amid concerns that bookings for the unregulated motorcycle-for-hire services are increasing on the social media platform.

Transport Watch said these kinds of transportation services have no accountability as many operators do not give their true identities.

Facebook groups offering transport services have no accountability. This is really a concern as there is demand among passengers. If there is regulation, we will be able to uphold consumer protection and accountability, Transport Watch convenor Noemi Dado told a press briefing on the launch of the group Wednesday in Makati City.

The group claimed that Facebook is emerging as the newest transportation network company (TNC) as "habal-habal" operators post specific time schedules, the routes they ply and indicate their mobile numbers on the social networking site.

A passenger will post their pick-up and drop-off points, the time they need the ride and how much they want to pay. Drivers will then send a private message to the passengers to agree on a designated time and the fare. Upon reaching an agreement, the driver will proceed to the client's pick-up location.

The underground transport service operators offer no insurance, no protection nor proper training and accountability. Because of this, passengers' lives are placed at risk. Yet because public transportation inadequacy and reliability have long been questioned from the general public remain unaddressed, unregulated transport services like 'habal-habals' that can traverse roads not passable by four-wheeled vehicles have gained ground, Tony La Vina, a former Ateneo Law School Dean and a member of the group, said.

Facebook page administrators of these habal-habal operators delete the complaints of passengers thus there is no record of the transaction making it difficult to track down drivers of the vehicles, the group said.

Transport Watch is calling on the government to recognize the motorcycle-for-hire operations as an alternative mode of transportation to commuters.

The real issue is the only thing that the low-income households can afford are motorcycles. Regardless of how we ban it, they will continue to use it wherever they think they need to do so. Sa aking palagay ay hindi siya mawawala (In my opinion, they will still be there), another transport safety advocate, George Royeca of One Nation, said.

Facebook, in a collective sense, has more riders than other TNCs. Banning it will not make it go away. It will continue to grow very rapidly. Unless we provide alternatives, this is the only choice for the poor. We need to recognize that, he added.

Transport Watch is a multisectoral transport consortium which provides citizens a platform to relay their concerns on the country's transportation system to relevant stakeholders.

Transport Watch advocates are committed to push for policy and legislation that promotes better transport alternatives, road safety and education as well as raise awareness of the Philippines' transport issues to the media and their communities, Dado notes.

For its part, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said it would include underground "habal-habal" in the operation against unregistered or "colorum" vehicles which is being conducted by the Task Force Kamao.

The Board will also be seeking the assistance of Transport Watch to identify the Facebook pages of habal-habal operations.

On the part of LTFRB, we have communicated with DOTr Road Transport Usec Tim Orbos we will be requiring the assistance of Transport Watch to identify and share the link of the Facebook accounts of the 'habal-habal' ops. So that we can prepare our formal request to Facebook to put down their links. We will also be including 'habal-habal' in the operations of Task Force Kamao, LTFRB Board Member Aileen Lizada said in a text message to reporters.

Lizada said that motorcycles could not be used as public utility vehicles (PUVs) and are considered as "colorum" unless Congress comes up with a new legislation on "habal-habal".

Task Force Kamao was recently created by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to implement intensified operations against "colorum" or unregistered PUVs nationwide.

The task force is headed by the LTFRB which has jurisdiction over PUV franchises.

Other agencies in the task group include the Land Transportation Office, Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Source: Philippine News Agency