MANILA - Motorcycle ride-hailing firm Angkas said Tuesday it was collaborating with the UP College of Public Health and other experts to study the viability of using motorcycle taxis as a public transport option during the new normal.
Health experts will help Angkas explore potential layers of protection to reduce the chance of COVID-19 infections among drivers and passengers while ensuring that strict monitoring on proposed measures will be imposed, UP College of Public Health dean Vicente Belizario Jr told reporters in a press briefing.
UP experts recommended the use of shields to offer "additional protection" and reduce the risk of transmission, UPCPH assistant professor Paul Michael Hernandez said.
Hernandez said "ventilation" is another good characteristic of motorcycle taxis.
Angkas' motorcycle taxi operations were suspended in March when the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon took effect.
“Given the proper research and study, and implementing health measures based on that research, I think there's a viability that we can make it work as a form of transport during the pandemic," Angkas chief transport advocate George Royeca said.
Angkas' plastic barrier shield design was approved by the country's coronavirus task force. Its design was also released to the public for free.
California-based Total Control Training president and motorcycle expert Lee Parks said the plastic barrier offers added layer of protection aside from face masks and face shields worn by drivers and riders.
Parks said, to his knowledge, Angkas was among the first in the world to propose the barrier as a COVID-19 protection for motorcycle taxis.
The design of the shield ensures not just reduced risk of COVID-19 transmission but also visibility, aerodynamics and crash-protection, he said.
"Really the question is, how many redundant layers can be put in to make sure that even if one of them fails, something else is still going to work," Parks said.
The pilot run that would determine whether or not motorcycle taxis will be allowed to become an alternate form of public transport expired during the lockdown.
The technical working group has submitted its position to the House of Representatives. Angkas said the Transportation Committee has set a hearing on motorcycle taxis on Wednesday, July 22.
Royeca said allowing Angkas to operate would also help in the government's contact tracing efforts since it is app-based and with the help of its 30,000-strong fleet.
“We leave it to experts…but in our hearts we want to push for this as we believe this is the most efficient way of travel,” Royeca said.
“We are in a global pandemic and we will only agree to move forward if its really deemed safe for the public,” he added.