Transport Watch launches, group considers Facebook as unruly TNC

As the population in the Philippines continues to grow, heavy traffic jams and inconvenient way of commuting seem to be an endless problem in the country nowadays.

Commuters are forced to think of alternative and convenient way to ease this unresolved cases in order to have more rest once they reach home.

A multi-sectoral transport consortium called “Transport Watch” was launched recently which was initiated by transport advocates and major industry players who wish to have a vigilant watch on transport, mobility issues and as well as improve the poor condition of transportation in the country.

The said group, which considered Facebook as unruly Transportation Network Company (TNC), will not only focus on transportation and mobility issues in the Metro but to developing provinces as well.

During the event, Transport Watch Convenor Noemi Dado, Transport Advocate and Co-Convenor of Two Wheels, One Nation George Royeca, a Lawyer and Former Ateneo Law School Dean Tony La Viña shared some insights and raised suggestions during the launch in which Department of Transportation (DOTr) Asec. Elvira Medina who was also present to address issues related to the local transport sector.

Dado said that the Transport Watch’s role is to be a platform to the citizens to express their distress by messages regarding the country’s transport woes to relative 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,” she added.

According to the Transport Watch Convenor, the Philippine transport sector continues to encounter major challenges daily, like capacity problems and frequent breakdowns of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) or the dilemma between bus and taxi drivers.

In this case, underground transport operators or commonly known as habal-habal have been growing uncontrollably and even uses one of the leading social networking sites, Facebook, for their operations.

Habal-habal operators believed to have been offering services through Facebook, in which they will post specific time schedules, the routes they will travel and also include their mobile numbers on the social networking site, all under the government radar.

In a research done by Transport Watch, bookings for underground habal-habals are becoming rampant on Facebook.

Meanwhile, La Viña said that the underground transport service operators offer no insurance, no protection, nor proper training and accountability in which the passengers’ lives are put at risk.

He added that because of public transportation inadequacy and reliability for many years, unregulated transport services like habal-habals that can traverse roads not passable by four-wheeled motor vehicles have gained grounds.

The largest Facebook group used by habal-habal operators has an estimated of 200, 000 members. But wondering how they operates? A passenger will simply post their pick-up and drop-off location at the group page, what time they need the ride and how much they want to pay. Drivers will then message the passenger to agree on a time and compensation and once an agreement has been done, the driver then proceeds to the pick-up location.

Sadly, there are reported cases where passengers are deceived or even robbed but tracking down the drivers has become nearly impossible due to the fact that many of them do not give their true identities.

Although, there have been many documented complaints about the underground habaI-habal drivers, the Facebook page administrators reportedly suppress such complaints by deleting it immediately, leaving it unresolved and passengers unheard.

”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 said.

“So what is the government doing while our poor commuters are forced to ride underground habaI-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 added.

Transport Watch meant to raise the alarm about unregulated operations of motorcycles-for-hire, particularly illegal habaI-habal operations that continue to rise on social media platforms like Facebook.

Transport Watch Convenor Dado also said that the launch of Transport Watch was a good thing for the situation of the transportation in the country which simply means that concerned citizens finally realized that through vigilance and cooperation, it is possible to solve the transportation woes and lessen the harm to the commuting public.

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