MANILA – Armed with a motorbike, helmet and a smartphone, 35-year-old motorcycle driver Paolo continues to convey passengers daily despite the suspension of ride-hailing service Angkas.
Through a thriving underground Facebook group, drivers like him carry on with their livelihood: that is, providing convenience to those looking for alternative transport and delivery services in the midst of tightening government regulation, heavy traffic, and the dearth in public transport options.
Some social media pages for such service have emerged since the suspension of ride-hailing firm Angkas and Grab's takeover of Uber, enabling orphaned drivers to continue with their trade and providing an underground option for commuters, even those willing to pay for a gofer.
On one such online ride, delivery and errand service page, passengers just need to post what they need- a ride, delivery or errand request- and the amount they are willing to pay.
Drivers- those with cars and motorbikes alike- then have to comment if they want the job.
The service is available 24 hours a day.
“Una, mas mabilis kami kaysa sa bus at kahit saan sa Metro Manila mahahatid namin ang mga pasahero hindi tulad sa bus may mga ruta silang sinusunod," said Paolo, who requested that his real name be withheld.
(First of all, we (motorcycles) are faster than buses and we can bring passengers anywhere in Metro Manila, unlike buses that follow certain routes.)
The full-time driver said he earns an average of P800 daily during the rush hour windows of 4:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 pm to 8:30 p.m.
Programmer and motorbike enthusiast Brian, who also requested anonymity, earns as much as P500 a day by working as a part-time underground driver after office hours.
Both drivers and commuters transact voluntarily through the page, fully aware that the system is illegal, because it saves them time and money, the 26-year old said.
"Mahalaga ito kasi isipin niyo po aabutin ka ng ilang oras dahil sa traffic na kung tutuusin minuto lang ang distansya. Nakakatipid ng oras. Kaya marami nangangailangan ng serbisyo namin," Brian said.
(This is important because imagine traveling for hours when, in reality, the distance is just minutes apart. Commuters can save time. That's why a lot of people need our service.)
Call center agent Adel said she has benefited from the system that offers fast and safe transport especially during odd hours.
"Bilang isang call center agent, minsan pang-gabi, minsan pang-umaga, napakalaking tulong kasi nakakauwi ako ng maaga sa bahay," she said.
(As a call center agent, I travel during night time, or sometimes during the day. This is big help because I can go home early)
In an interview with ANC on Tuesday, Angkas founder Angeline Tham said she was fighting for legal recognition to provide commuters an alternative and give jobs to motorcycle drivers.
Angkas head for public affairs George Royeca has said the platform's track record proved that the use of motorcycles in ride-hailing is safe, citing a mere .003 percent accident rate.
In a hearing on Monday, House Committee on Metro Manila Development chair Rep. Winston Castelo backed Angkas' claim and urged the Department of Transportation to conduct a pilot test and to regulate the use of motorcycles for ride-hailing.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is forming a technical working group to discuss whether or not motorcycles may be allowed to become a legal mode of public transport, Assistant Secretary for Communications Goddess Hope Libiran said in a statement released on Monday.
Members of the underground group claimed that safety measures were put in place to protect passengers who use the system, such as the use of high-grade helmets.
In case of accidents, members work together to provide assistance since no insurance is offered for booked rides, Brian said.
He said riders conduct a “paikot helmet” (pass the hat) to solicit funds.
“'Pag may nadisgrasya, tutulong lahat (If someone meets an accident, everyone helps),” the driver said.
Both Paolo and Brian said the use of motorcycles for public transport should be legalized for the protection of drivers and commuters.
"Patuloy namin sinusulong na pagbigyan kami at gawing legal ang mga motorcycle taxi. Gusto naming maglingkod ng patas at umaasa kami na darating din 'yung legality sa mga motorcycle taxi," Paolo said.
(We will continue to push for the legalization of motorcycle "taxis". We want to service the people fairly and we hope for the time for legalization of motorcycle taxis would come)