Senate panel hearing on motorcycle taxi issues set on January 14

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2020   •   266

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate panel has set a hearing next week to discuss bills seeking to regulate the use of motorcycle as safe and alternative public utility vehicles.

In a statement, Senator Grace Poe said the Senate committee on public service will hold the public hearing on January 14, Tuesday to tackle four bills on motorcycle taxi regulation.

Poe, who heads the panel, said she would also ask for updates from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on the pilot implementation of motorcycle taxis which started in June 2019.

“The results of the pilot run will be an important guide for the committee in crafting the final version of the bill,” she said.

“Our ultimate goal is availability, safety and comfort for our riding public,” she added.

Poe also said that the cap set by the regulator on the number of motorcycle taxis and issues concerning ownership will also be tackled in the hearing.

The DOTr Technical Working Group (TWG) on motorcycle taxis earlier announced the extension of the pilot run of motorcycle-ride hailing services.

Aside from Angkas, the extended pilot run will now include JoyRide and Move It.

A cap of 39,000 registered bikers – 10,000 bikers per Transport Network Company (TNC) for Metro Manila and 3,000 bikers each TNC for Metro Cebu operations – was also set.

Angkas questioned the set limit, and claimed there was politics involved in the inclusion of JoyRide in the pilot run.

Poe hopes the hearing will find solutions to issues hounding motorcycle taxis, as well as other problems on the country’s transport system.

“The long lines of commuters waiting for rides leave no doubt that we need alternative public utility vehicles. We hope this hearing will help find solutions to issues on safety, legality and other questions that need to be threshed out towards an efficient transport system as a whole,” she said.

Recto confident Duterte will support motorcycle taxi bill

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has expressed confidence that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign into law the proposed Motorcycle Taxi Bill, which seeks to lift the 56-year ban on two-wheelers as a public utility vehicle (PUV).

In his speech sponsoring Senate Bill No. 1341 Tuesday — which proposes to legalize motorcycle taxis such as Angkas, JoyRide and MoveIt — Recto referred to Duterte’s fondness for motorcycles, saying this had shown the motorbike as a safe ride.

“The motorbike is the ride of choice of the President,” he said.

“So, what is good for the president must be good for the ordinary citizen,” he added, before laying down the stringent conditions on how to make for-hire motorcycles “safe for the driver, for the passenger, and for the other vehicles on the road.”

The measure seeks to amend Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Tariff Code, which prohibits the use of motorcycles as public transport.

The proposal defines motorcycles-for-hire as any two-wheeled motor vehicle registered with the Land Transportation Office, which transports passengers and goods on a for-hire basis, and which may utilize online ride-hailing or pre-arranged transportation platforms.

The bill states that the motorcycle should weigh less than 1,000 kilograms, can travel faster than 50 kilometers per hour, has a minimum engine displacement of 125 cubic centimeters, and a backbone-type built.

Along with the vehicle registration, the motorcycles for hire will also be required to secure a certificate of public convenience or a special permit issued by the LTFRB.

The measure also states that motorcycle taxis fall under a classification of public utility automobiles along with public utility trucks, taxis and auto-calesas, garage automobiles, hire trucks and trucks owned by contractor and customs brokers and customs agents.

Recto urged his fellow legislators to pass the bill.

The Senate committees on public services and the local government earlier approved a committee report allowing the use of motorcycle taxis as a form of public transport in the country.

Senators insist exemption from gag order plea on ABS-CBN franchise issue

Marje Pelayo   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators believe that they should not be covered by the gag order that Solicitor General Jose Calida is requesting in relation to the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation.

 According to Senator Grace Poe, the Upper Chamber is expressing its respect and support to the Supreme Court (SC) but based on the court’s previous ruling, the Senate should not be affected by the gag order.

Poe is planning to start the Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise on February 27.

Several senators also agreed that discussions on the Kapamilya network’s franchise renewal should be given a chance.

 “I think it has to be established first, (before you curtail my freedom of expression), for me to speak freely,” expressed Senator Joel Villanueve.

“I think there is no compelling reason right now to do that,” he added.

“The Senate can pursue the oversight hearing in light of its oversight function,” believed Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa who is a known ally to President Rodrigo Duterte also supports the Senate’s discussion on the allegations against ABS-CBN.

“It concerns everyone, the public. So, hindi mo maiwawasan na pag-usapan iyan sa publiko, (You cannot stop the issue from being discussed in public,)” dela Rosa said.

“We have to give fair chance to everyone. Dapat malaman natin kung anong katotohanan. Pero pag sinabi mo na impluwensya ako sa desisyon ni Presidente, kayo may sarili kayong bias, ako naman (We should know the truth. But if you accuse me of being influenced by the President’s decision, like you having your own bias, I also am biased to my President,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, hopes that the Supreme Court will not include the Senate or any of its committees in the gag order.

“What may be covered, though, are the resource persons who will be invited to shed light on this instant case involving the franchise of ABS-CBN as they are not exempt from the sub judice rule, which covers litigants and witnesses, members of the bar and the public in general,” Lacson explained in a statement.

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who previously filed a joint resolution to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN to 2022, argued that the SC cannot bar a resource person from responding to a Senate invitation.

The Supreme Court cannot prohibit persons to appear and testify before congressional inquiries in aid of legislation. The petition cannot prevent the Senate from hearing the issues on ABS-CBN. The petition has no effect on the Senate,” Drilon said.

SC spokesperson Atty. Brian Hosaka, meanwhile, clarified that the Senate may still push through with their inquiry, even the House of Representative as they are not among the parties involved in the case.

The SC has given the Kapamilya Network five days to answer to the SolGen’s petition.

Meanwhile, Malacañang expressed support for the gag order.

“Tama naman siya doon kasi parang nagiging emotional ang issue on this particular topic,” Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

“If ABS-CBN has committed a criminal act then the President will exercise his right and pursue a case against it before the court. But he will not use his office to stop ABS-CBN from continuing with its service. That’s for congress to decide, not for him,” he concluded. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado / Rosalie Coz)

Poe wants proof ABS-CBN can still operate beyond franchise term

Robie de Guzman   •   February 17, 2020

Senator Grace Poe

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe called on her fellow legislators to ensure that broadcasting network ABS-CBN can still continue to operate beyond its franchise term while Congress deliberates on bills seeking to renew its franchise to protect more than 11,000 workers from displacement.

In a statement on Sunday, Poe said members of the House of Representatives should make their assurance to the ABS-CBN concrete by declaring it verbally or putting it into writing.

“Kahit sabihin pa nila na pwede naman ‘yan i-extend hanggang 2022, maganda siguro kung in writing o kaya at least verbally sabihin ng Kongreso, ‘We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate’ kasi hindi naman ‘yan nakasulat sa batas,” she said.

“’Yan ay kortesiya lamang na ibinibigay ng Kongreso at NTC. Hindi biro kung matigil ang operasyon dahil alam naman natin 11,000 trabaho ang apektado rito,” she added.

Poe made the remark after House leaders earlier said that the media giant could continue operating until 2022 or the end of the 18th Congress while its franchise is being discussed.

The senator last week filed Resolution No. 322 directing the Senate committee on public services, which she chairs, to conduct an inquiry to determine ABS-CBN’s compliance to the terms of its franchise. Several senators are supporting the resolution.

Poe said the Senate inquiry would focus on the network’s alleged violations, adding that all parties will be given an opportunity to air their side for the public to know the real issue.

“Walang perpekto. Ako ang isip ko diyan ay bukas dahil maraming nag-a-apply ng prangkisa, wala namang perpekto,” she said.

She added that the hearings would aid the senators in making a judgment when the franchise bill is transmitted to them for their deliberation.

The House of Representatives has yet to begin deliberations on the bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise which is set to expire on March 30, 2020. Congress goes on a break on March 11.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said the bills relating to the media network’s franchise are “not that urgent” since the National Telecommunications Commission will grant the company provisional authority to operate until 2022.

He also assured that the House of Representatives will conduct an impartial hearing on the issue.

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