We take at face value Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s proposal to legitimize the operation of habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) units if only to provide yet another mass transport alternative to Cebu City residents.
In pushing for the establishment of habal-habal terminals and legitimizing the operation of habal-habal units, Osmeña called attention to the plight of schoolchildren in the city’s mountain barangays who have to walk uphill for hours just to attend school and then go back home, sometimes crossing rivers to do so.
In places where four-wheel vehicles cannot pass through or climb up, the habal-habal units may provide a viable means of transport, but like tricycles, they can be overloaded.
There are photos published in the “Siloy is Watching” page here in Cebu Daily News that show habal-habal drivers carrying four to even five passengers passing through mountain roads.
Traveling with those number of people is especially dangerous during heavy rains when the roads are slippery. The mayor said in exchange for fetching school kids to and from school, he will provide rice and food for the habal-habal drivers.
But what if, God forbid, something happens to them and their little passengers? There’s no insurance policy for them. And what sanctions would be imposed on erring and careless habal-habal drivers?
That said, habal-habal drivers can provide quick and easy transportation for commuters in a hurry to head to office or go back home. During last July’s floods, habal-habal drivers helped fetch stranded commuters, albeit at steeper fare rates than the commuters would want to pay.
The same thing happens during tent pole events like the Sinulog when flagging down a taxi or hitching a ride on passenger jeepneys becomes a nightmare for both long-time residents and first-time visitors on a shoestring budget.
It’s the matter of fare rates, regulating and ensuring the accountability of these habal-habal drivers and making sure that their terminals don’t inconvenience the public by hogging road space and aggravating traffic that are the primary concerns that should be taken into consideration when legitimizing their operations.
With the mayor allowing the operation of habal-habal units, it thus falls squarely on him to ensure that they don’t botch up. As to how the national transportation agencies will respond and deal with this, only time will tell.
What’s important now is that residents of mountain barangays are given a viable means of transport to go to and from the city’s urban centers. This may also give habal-habal drivers time to organize themselves to improve their livelihood.
So long as the riding public is served well, habal-habal drivers can find a place for themselves in Cebu City’s mass transport landscape.
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