April 9, 2018

“Transport Watch” - a vigilant/watchful eye on transport and mobility issues in the Philippines

“Transport Watch,” an initiative that gives citizens a platform to air their messages to relevant stakeholders. A multi-sectoral transport consortium “Transport Watch,” was launched last April 4 to create a vigilant and watchful eye on transport and mobility issues and improve the state of transportation in the Philippines.

Transport Watch advocates are committed to push for policy and legislation that promotes better transport alternatives, road safety and education, as well as raise awareness of the Philippines’ transport issues to the media and their communities.

The group will not just focus on transport and mobility issues in Metro Manila, it will also tackle issues in the provinces, such as Cebu, Davao, and other key cities in the country. Several speakers shared their insights during Transport Watch’s launch, including Transport Watch convenor Noemi Dado, transport advocate and co-convenor of Two Wheels, One Nation George Royeca and lawyer and former Ateneo Law School dean Tony La Viña. Department of Transportation (DOTr) Asec. Elvira Medina was on hand to speak on issues related to the local transport sector.

An advocate and blogger, Noemi Dado said, Transport Watch gives citizens a platform to air their messages regarding the country’s transport woes to relevant stakeholders. “Transport Watch advocates are committed to push for policy and legislation that promotes better transport alternatives, road safety and education, as well as raise awareness of the Philippines’ transport issues to the media and their communities,” Dado reveals.

Dado stressed that as the Philippine transport sector continues to be besieged with major challenges, including capacity problems and frequent breakdowns of the metro rail transit, underground transport operators, more commonly known as habal-habal, have been growing in number, even swarming to one of the leading social networking sites: Facebook.

As its first order of business, Transport Watch called out Facebook as the newest “Transport Network Company” since underground habal-habal operators have been offering their services through this social network. Habal-habal operators post specific time schedules and the routes they travel and also indicate their mobile numbers on the social networking site–all under the government radar.

Based on research done by Transport Watch, bookings for underground habal-habals are booming on Facebook.

#TransportWatchPH launch with Ms. Noemi Lardizabal Dado, @momblogger , Convenor of #TransportWatch , George Royeca - Transport Advocate ASEC. Elvira Media of Office of Commuter Affairs, DOTr , Dean Antonio Gabriel La Viña, Dean, of Ateneo School of Government and Transport Advocate, Ms. Amor Maclang of Geisermaclang Company.

“The underground transport service operators offer no insurance, no protection, nor proper training and accountability. Because of this, passengers’ lives are placed at risk. Yet because public transportation inadequacy and reliability that have long been under question from the general public remain unaddressed, unregulated transport services like habal-habals that can traverse roads not passable by four-wheeled motor vehicles have gained ground,” Dean Tony La Viňa reveals.

The largest Facebook group used by habal-habal operators has a membership of around 200,000. But how do these underground operators actually work? A passenger will post their pick-up and drop-off location, what time they need the ride and how much they want to pay. Drivers will then PM the passenger to agree on a time and compensation. Once an agreement has been set, the driver then proceeds to the pick-up location.

There are documented cases where passengers are duped or even robbed but tracking them down has become nearly impossible due to the fact that many operators do not give their true identities. And although there have been many documented complaints about the underground habal-habal drivers, the Facebook page administrators suppress such complaints by deleting them immediately, leaving the complaints unresolved and passengers unheard.

Photo via Jane Uymatiao
“The problem is that the government cannot regulate Facebook. The government cannot tell Facebook to ban these underground habal-habal services nor to prevent them from posting on their Facebook accounts,” Dado notes.

“So what is the government doing while our poor commuters are forced to ride underground habal-habals while risking their lives and property in the process? The answer seems to be in the regulation of habal-habals, which will make the operators toe the line, professionalize, and make their service legitimate and efficient,” she suggests.

Because of this, Transport Watch is raising the alarm about unregulated operations of motorcycles-for-hire, particularly illegal habal-habal operations that have proliferated on social media platforms like Facebook.

Dado says, “The launch of Transport Watch is a good thing for the country’s transportation situation. It signifies that concerned individuals have realized that vigilance and cooperation can possibly solve problems and lessen dangers to the commuting public. This is just the beginning. Transport Watch will continue to be the commuters’ voice.”

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