ESPRESSO MORNINGS

By Joe Zaldarriaga

When it comes to the country’s transportation situation and commuter satisfaction, surveys from local and international think tank groups would always put the Philippines in the lowest ranks.

A UK-based study conducted by insurance technology site GoShorty, showed that Manila ranks as the eighth worst in the world in terms of hours spent in traffic. With a 43 percent congestion level, Filipinos in these cities lose 98 hours to traffic annually.

In addition, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said that Metro traffic congestion in Metro Manila alone results in some PHP3 billion losses daily. It added that this amount could balloon to PHP5.4 billion by 2035.

Boston Consulting Group, meanwhile, revealed that in 2017, Manila’s traffic congestion cost motorists an average of over an hour lost in traffic every day, putting it at third worst in Southeast Asia.

As Christmas holiday looms, the Filipino commuter’s distressing situation gets even worse.

Transport experts projected that more and more Filipinos will rely on ride-hailing services to get through traffic. The motorcycle taxi industry in particular is gaining popularity.

As compared with ride-hailing cabs, tapping motorcycle taxis have become a sensible choice for the commuting public as it significantly lessens travel time, and by far cheaper than other public modes of transportation.

In other neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia, motorcycle taxi is already an established business model.

In the Philippines, a Motorcycle Taxi bill (House Bill 10571) had already been passed, and Manila 2nd District Representative and House Committee on Metro Manila Development chair Rolando Valeriano said he will help push its swift passage into law.

Currently, three motorcycle taxi companies -- Angkas, JoyRide and Move It -- were given a special provision to operate motorcycle taxis as part of the government’s pilot-testing program.

But several months ago, questions were raised when Grab Philippines, arguably the most established transportation network company in the country, recently acquired Move It. Concerns over the takeover’s impact on the consumers are now being raised at the House of Representatives.

At a recent interpellation, the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) found no need to review the merger because the transaction did not meet the PCC’s minimum threshold to justify one.

Marikina 2nd District Representative and ex-PCC Chair Stella Quimbo, however, expressed disappointment at the regulatory agency’s seeming lack of concern and inaction over Grab’s compliance regarding its 2018 voluntary commitments to stop overpricing and overcharging.

The motorcycle-for-hire industry is clearly expanding -- a solution to traffic and commuting woes that emerged in this new normal. But as of this writing, the Philippines is yet to have a legislation that would regulate the operations of motorcycle taxis -- and the government must fast-track crafting one, to allow and regulate motorcycle taxi-hailing as a public conveyance, prevent fears and possibility of lesser competition and higher fares, and level the playing field in the said industry.

Not only this, legalization and regulation would help address safety risks in registered motorcycle-for-hire and those operating in the black-market, called “habal-habal”. These will likewise improve commuter welfare by giving them the option to choose legitimate service providers.

The weary, desperate Filipino commuters need a solution. Cheap, fast and safe public mobility via motorcycle taxis is promising, and the government needs to act fast.

About the Columnist

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Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.