Angkas and the road bumps for motorcycle ride-sharing in the Philippines

Will forward-thinking ride-sharing businesses ever find success in the Philippines?

By Jeremiah Capacillo

Well, what drama. On January 20 in the morning, motorcycle ride-sharing in the Philippines was declared illegal. As per the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) inter-agency Technical Working Group (TWG), the country’s three motorcycle-taxi services, the foremost of which is Angkas, can no longer operate; violators will be apprehended.

Then came the reprieve. By afternoon, Senator Bong Go stepped in to mediate. Philippine Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade then announced he will not apprehend motorcycle taxis while the TWG and Angkas iron out their issues.

These are sad but somewhat predictable developments. Will motorcycle ride-sharing ever get beyond regulator roadblocks and truly flourish?

Abiding by the manual

The impact of motorcycle-based ride-sharing app Angkas is undeniable. In a city known for having “the worst traffic in the world,” Angkas is a crowd favourite for Filipinos who have given up on what seems like a hopeless transportation system.

But the DOTr-TWG seems bent on doing things by the book – even if it means scrapping new, technologically-driven solutions that weren’t around when the book was written.

In a press statement dated December 21, Angkas revealed that although the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory board approved their request to continue operations in 2020, they were mandated to reduce their number of drivers from 27,000 to 10,000.

“That’s a compromise to the quality of service you can expect, and a direct blow to over 17,000 Filipino families,” chief transport advocate George Royeca said in the statement.

A debate ensued on social media concerning the backward nature of current regulations and conflicts between new businesses and established motoring laws.

Citizens began questioning the fate of Angkas, the manner in which the whole ride-sharing issue is being handled (by both Angkas and the TWG), and whether or not the government is listening to – or even interested in – its people and their traffic woes.

Well, here we are. The TWG has put its foot down. Ride-sharing is illegal. The gridlock on the road isn’t going away but your ability to bypass it has vanished.

What seemed like a perfectly excellent means of transport has now gone the way of the Dodo, which leaves one asking: Where is the Philippines going wrong on this?

From top-down to bottom-up

In the Philippine government, important decisions are often made through a top-down approach – that is, change is mandated at the top and trickled down below. This framework means those with power are the ones who can truly effect change.

The problem is, this approach often results in things kept at status quo. Change coming from the ground, working its way up to those in power, gets choked in a myriad of challenges: outdated laws, draconian thinking, and the insistence that things must be done the old-fashioned way.

What this means for services driven by technology like Uber, Airbnb and Angkas is that regulation rooted in the past will likely stifle – and kill – growth based on present and future innovation.

A different route

A 2017 study in the journal Transportation Research Procedia introduces the concept of the “bottom-up approach,” where change is made possible by constant dialogue between those in power and their constituents.

This more open-minded and democratic method allows for differing viewpoints to take center stage and emerging technologies to flourish.

The study relates how researchers tracked the development of popular ride-sharing services Uber, Lyft and Sidecar as they entered the San Francisco market in 2012.

App-based ride-sharing services were a fairly novel idea at the time and the city’s transport regulations weren’t built to address them. They existed to regulate older public services such as traditional taxis and trains.

When Sidecar and Lyft both began operating in San Francisco, they were technically illegal.

Had San Francisco’s powers-that-be stuck to the letter of the law, Sidecar, Lyft and Uber would have long gone out of business. Thankfully, they approached these new technologies and solutions from a bottom-up perspective, examining the pros and cons of these nascent services without being shackled by yesteryear’s laws.

After heated debate and consultations, legislators welcomed the new modes of transport and enabled regulatory reform that legalised the operations of ride-sharing services in the city.

The road is long

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in the Philippines where the government is famously bureaucratic and laden with red tape. A service that comes into direct contravention of the law – even a service that is as unquestionably beneficial and worthy of praise as a ride-sharing app – will have to contend with a top-down approach to approval.

The government will insist on technology yielding to the law. The law yielding to technology is anathema.

But please, nobody is saying, “ignore the law.” Citizens are simply asking that the government be open-minded, listen to its constituents and welcome a bottom-up approach to change.

Last October, presidential spokesperson Salvedor Panelo made headlines when he denied the existence of a transport crisis in Metro Manila, saying traffic was merely a state of mind. He’s half right. Traffic is a state of mind; so are traffic-solving solutions.

You’re either open to new, positive, working technologies or you’re closed off and scared of change.

Either way, it’s a battle in the mind. A bottom-up approach to new tech and services is the change in mindset the government needs to give its people the transportation system they truly deserve.

Until then, buckle up. It’s going to be a long ride.

Will forward-thinking ride-sharing businesses ever find success in the Philippines? By Jeremiah Capacillo Well, what drama. On January 20 in the morning, motorcycle ride-sharing in the Philippines was declared illegal. As per the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) inter-agency Technical Working Group (TWG), the country’s three motorcycle-taxi services, the foremost of which is Angkas, can no longer operate; violators will be apprehended. Then came the reprieve. By afternoon, Senator Bong Go stepped in to mediate. Philippine Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade then announced he will not apprehend motorcycle taxis while the TWG and Angkas iron out their issues. These are sad but...

Will forward-thinking ride-sharing businesses ever find success in the Philippines?

By Jeremiah Capacillo

Well, what drama. On January 20 in the morning, motorcycle ride-sharing in the Philippines was declared illegal. As per the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) inter-agency Technical Working Group (TWG), the country’s three motorcycle-taxi services, the foremost of which is Angkas, can no longer operate; violators will be apprehended.

Then came the reprieve. By afternoon, Senator Bong Go stepped in to mediate. Philippine Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade then announced he will not apprehend motorcycle taxis while the TWG and Angkas iron out their issues.

These are sad but somewhat predictable developments. Will motorcycle ride-sharing ever get beyond regulator roadblocks and truly flourish?

Abiding by the manual

The impact of motorcycle-based ride-sharing app Angkas is undeniable. In a city known for having “the worst traffic in the world,” Angkas is a crowd favourite for Filipinos who have given up on what seems like a hopeless transportation system.

But the DOTr-TWG seems bent on doing things by the book – even if it means scrapping new, technologically-driven solutions that weren’t around when the book was written.

In a press statement dated December 21, Angkas revealed that although the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory board approved their request to continue operations in 2020, they were mandated to reduce their number of drivers from 27,000 to 10,000.

“That’s a compromise to the quality of service you can expect, and a direct blow to over 17,000 Filipino families,” chief transport advocate George Royeca said in the statement.

A debate ensued on social media concerning the backward nature of current regulations and conflicts between new businesses and established motoring laws.

Citizens began questioning the fate of Angkas, the manner in which the whole ride-sharing issue is being handled (by both Angkas and the TWG), and whether or not the government is listening to – or even interested in – its people and their traffic woes.

Well, here we are. The TWG has put its foot down. Ride-sharing is illegal. The gridlock on the road isn’t going away but your ability to bypass it has vanished.

What seemed like a perfectly excellent means of transport has now gone the way of the Dodo, which leaves one asking: Where is the Philippines going wrong on this?

From top-down to bottom-up

In the Philippine government, important decisions are often made through a top-down approach – that is, change is mandated at the top and trickled down below. This framework means those with power are the ones who can truly effect change.

The problem is, this approach often results in things kept at status quo. Change coming from the ground, working its way up to those in power, gets choked in a myriad of challenges: outdated laws, draconian thinking, and the insistence that things must be done the old-fashioned way.

What this means for services driven by technology like Uber, Airbnb and Angkas is that regulation rooted in the past will likely stifle – and kill – growth based on present and future innovation.

A different route

A 2017 study in the journal Transportation Research Procedia introduces the concept of the “bottom-up approach,” where change is made possible by constant dialogue between those in power and their constituents.

This more open-minded and democratic method allows for differing viewpoints to take center stage and emerging technologies to flourish.

The study relates how researchers tracked the development of popular ride-sharing services Uber, Lyft and Sidecar as they entered the San Francisco market in 2012.

App-based ride-sharing services were a fairly novel idea at the time and the city’s transport regulations weren’t built to address them. They existed to regulate older public services such as traditional taxis and trains.

When Sidecar and Lyft both began operating in San Francisco, they were technically illegal.

Had San Francisco’s powers-that-be stuck to the letter of the law, Sidecar, Lyft and Uber would have long gone out of business. Thankfully, they approached these new technologies and solutions from a bottom-up perspective, examining the pros and cons of these nascent services without being shackled by yesteryear’s laws.

After heated debate and consultations, legislators welcomed the new modes of transport and enabled regulatory reform that legalised the operations of ride-sharing services in the city.

The road is long

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in the Philippines where the government is famously bureaucratic and laden with red tape. A service that comes into direct contravention of the law – even a service that is as unquestionably beneficial and worthy of praise as a ride-sharing app – will have to contend with a top-down approach to approval.

The government will insist on technology yielding to the law. The law yielding to technology is anathema.

But please, nobody is saying, “ignore the law.” Citizens are simply asking that the government be open-minded, listen to its constituents and welcome a bottom-up approach to change.

Last October, presidential spokesperson Salvedor Panelo made headlines when he denied the existence of a transport crisis in Metro Manila, saying traffic was merely a state of mind. He’s half right. Traffic is a state of mind; so are traffic-solving solutions.

You’re either open to new, positive, working technologies or you’re closed off and scared of change.

Either way, it’s a battle in the mind. A bottom-up approach to new tech and services is the change in mindset the government needs to give its people the transportation system they truly deserve.

Until then, buckle up. It’s going to be a long ride.

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