Angkas teaches PH to ride a bike
While it has been an on-again, off-again relationship between the Philippines’ streets and motorbike ride-hailing service Angkas, the company is now back serving everyday commuters—at least for a few months, as recently ordered by the Department of Transportation (DOTr)—and is also more determined to educate riders
on proper road safety precautions, awareness of which is still lacking in many parts of the country, says Angkas CEO Angeline Tham.
“People in the provinces [still think] it’s baduy to wear a helmet, it’s not cool,” Tham says. “Which is crazy, since it’s the single most important piece of safety equipment when riding a motorbike.”
She adds that this mentality is mostly because of lack of safety education, which many motorcycle drivers don’t have access to.
Citing survey data from Social Weather Stations, Tham says one out of three Filipino families owns a motorcycle, and that 50 percent depend on it for their livelihood. Most of them come from low-income households.
“This means they have no formal training [on how to use a motorbike],” Tham adds.
She further laments the lack of institutions that provide such formal training, saying she knows of only one in Metro Manila.
The three basic rules of motorcycle-riding—to always wear a helmet; don’t modify your bike; and take only one passenger with you—are also still not commonly known among Filipinos, she adds.
Angkas began operations in 2017, but voluntarily suspended service in the same year as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said it violated Republic Act No. 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, which banned two-wheeled vehicles from being used as public transport.
In September 2018, Angkas returned to the streets after the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the government from interfering with the company’s operations.
However, in December that same year, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the lower court’s ruling, thus forcing Angkas to, once again, suspend operations—an order that Angkas riders defied.
Due to public demand, the DOTr recently allowed a six-month test run of motorcycle taxis, which includes Angkas, to prove that it is, indeed, a safe mode of public transportation. Tham has expressed her gratitude for the ruling, and assures the public that Angkas has been doing its part in making sure that safety is top priority among their drivers.
In fact, she says the company has even extended its training to riders who aren’t on their platform by conducting workshops in coordination with certain local government units, all in the name of education on motorcycle riding safety.
Tham says the company’s focus is to continue empowering motorcycle drivers in the country by giving them a voice through their platform.
“If you look at Metro Manila, you would think that the Philippines is a car country. But if you look at research, there are only 1.5 million registered cars in the Philippines, 50 percent of which are in Metro Manila; the other half are spread out across provinces. Compare that to LTO’s (Land Transportation Office) data—there are five million registered bikes here in the Philippines. There is around an equal amount of motorbikes in Metro Manila, and the rest are spread out. But unofficial reports say there are around 14 million bikes, and LTO tells us there are around 800,000 to one million bikes added every year,” she says.
“But we’re not minding them as much—why? There are statistics from government that say 50 percent of all accidents involve a motorcycle—I’m not surprised, given the way we use them. And this is what we want to change in Angkas. We give them insurance, helmets; we make sure they follow the rules. That’s what we’re changing, one biker at a time,” Tham adds.
It all sounds ironic once we learn that Tham hasn’t learned yet how to ride a motorbike herself.
A former banker, Tham, who hails from Singapore, says she started Angkas mainly as an entrepreneurial pursuit after her experience setting up Grab Bike and Grab Express here in the Philippines.
Now, however, Angkas is both business and advocacy to this mother of one.
“Joining Angkas can be very powerful for a biker and his/her family. They can supplement a full-time job, or plan their day around their work. I know of people taking up higher education courses who have put themselves through school thanks to Angkas, whereas normally they would have to stop working to do so,” she says.
A driver can make up to P1,500 a day—which requires more than 10 trips—if they are on Angkas full time, P800 a day, if part time. The platform now has 20,000 drivers in its network, and operates in Metro Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos.
And it wants to do more.
“We’re open to working with all government agencies that are aligned with us in [achieving] this common goal of making roads safer in the Philippines, and giving pride and dignity to those with two-wheeled vehicles,” she says.
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