“Transport Watch” group airs concern over Facebook-hosted habal-habal accounts

Right under the nose of the government’s transport agencies are “enterprising” motorcyclists-for-hire offering their services through Facebook. The mode of transportation is the daredevil “habal-habal” (called SkyLab in some areas in Mindanao). Riders transport passengers to their destinations through Facebook deals.

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But their services are not registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board (LTFRB) because the two-wheeled vehicles are not supposed to be used for commercial transport.

“Habal-habal” accounts have hundreds of thousands of registered members. The LTFRB and the LTO have promised to crack down on the habal-habal operators.

Transport Watch, a multi-sectoral transport consortium launched on April 4, raised the issue on the shadowy “habal-habal” motorcycle transporters as they cited their risky rides. Founders of the group are collaborating to foster a vigilant and watchful eye on transport and mobility issues in the Philippines towards an improved state of transportation.

Transport Watch conveners and DOTr representative (center). Photo by Edd K. Usman.

The group branded “Facebook as an unregulated TNC (Transportation Network Company)” because of the many accounts of the groups of motorcycles for hire.

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Transport Watch through Noemi Dado, convener of the group, emphasized their group will serve as a platform for Filipinos to sound out their gripes on the problems facing the country’s transportation industry and reach the concerned stakeholders.

“Transport Watch advocates are committed to push for policy 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,” she said.

George Royeca, another transport advocate and co-convener of Two Wheels, One Nation, went as far as describing the world’s largest social networking portal as the “biggest TNC in the country; the biggest TNC everywhere else.”

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Transport Watch said they invited executives of Facebook in the Philippines to join the event launch in Makati City to get their side but no one came.

“(It’s) a very big issue on consumers’ safety. Not only that they don’t have skill sets. How do you monitor thousands of transactions on Facebook, thousands of illegal activities?” Royeca, referring to the interactions between member-passengers and habal-habal providers.

Thus, Transport Watch called on the government to legalized and regulate the operations of habal-habal to make it safe and an economical alternative for people’s transportation needs.

“The recourse is to change the law, to allow habal-habal to operate legally,” Antonio La Viña, also with the Transport Watch, said.

A former dean of Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), La Viña was referring to Commonwealth Act 146 which prohibits motorcycles from becoming a public utility vehicle (PUB). On the other hand, the Land Transportation and Traffic Code (Republic Act No. 4136) stipulates that motorcycles can only be registered as private vehicles.

Assistant Secretary for Commuter Affairs Elvira Manahan of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), who joined the panel of speakers at the launch, cited the number of deaths in accidents in the country that involved motorcycles. “We have seen death on the road.”

Royeca said if anything happens to commuters who take habal-habal they have no record of transactions to show off because they were instructed to delete their conversations once they have taken the ride. And if they complain about the service, or say anything negative, they will be removed as members.

Transport Watch’s study on the habal-habal rider providers showed it is a booming enterprise on Facebook.

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“The underground transport service operators offer no insurance, no protection, nor training and accountability. Because of this, passengers’ lives are at risk,” said La Viña.

He cites the inadequate public transportation and reliability which the public has been questioning but not addressed as the reason for the unregulated transport services like the habal-habal ride services.

EDD K. Usman: 1st winner of “Best Science Feature Story” of 2018 UP Science Journalism Award on February 17; winner in June 2014 for Print Media in Kabalikat Award Media Category of PCIEERD-DOST Science Journalism Award; alumnus of United States’ East-West Center 2008 Senior Journalists Seminar; participant of South Korea 2000 Executive Seminar for Information Technology Journalists; senior journalist at Manila Bulletin until April 15, 2016; stringer/contributor at present for Rappler, Newsbytes.ph, Claire Delfin Online Magazine, Malaya Business Insight, Agriculture Magazine (of Manila Bulletin), and U.S.-based Philippine News. Traveled on assignment abroad more than 30 times. Reports about SciTech, IT, ICT, Current Events, and many other subjects under Heaven.


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