Public reaction over Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade’s scolding of his Undersecretary Tim Orbos for riding a habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) in order to catch up to an appointment on time should compel the government to review and decide whether or not to legitimize habal-habal operations on a national or local scale.
Netizens came to the defense of Orbos, who admitted rather sheepishly during a public function that he was forced to ride a habal-habal in order not to be late only to be given a public dressing down by Tugade.
Their reactions ranged from justifying Orbos’ decision as an act of resourcefulness to pointing out that at least he didn’t use a vehicle with a “wang-wang” or siren to announce to all motorists that he is a very important official.
Still, others pointed out that Orbos riding a habal-habal should serve as an eye-opener to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) about the severity of the traffic congestion not only in Manila but in other metropolitan areas around the country including Metro Cebu.
To which we add that at least Orbos wasn’t like Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Congress who called on transport agencies not to arrest but exempt legislators from being penalized for minor traffic violations.
But to go back to the question, should habal-habal operations be legitimized? At least the Cebu City government not only recognizes habal-habal operations, it’s also encouraging them since in their opinion, they offer a viable transport option to the riding public.
In fact, there is a mobile app built to allow commuters to hail habal-habal drivers anywhere in the city. And the city government has offered to help habal-habal drivers organize themselves into groups in order to professionalize their ranks.
The problem lies in them competing with passenger jeepneys, taxis and now Uber and Grab contracted drivers for both commuters and road space.
And as things stand, transport agencies aren’t too keen on allowing more motorcycles to cramp aging, limited road space and networks in urban areas.
There should be regulation, but habal-habal riders are best suited to serve those in the hinterland barangays who need to go down to the countryside or to the city proper but are mostly hampered by the scarcity of available transport due to the lack of accessible roads.
Hinterland residents comprise that part of the riding public that needs to be serviced more, and if there are better roads, more passenger jeepneys can be used to fetch them to and from the city proper or countryside.
For starters, the question of legitimizing habal-habal operations may be settled at the local rather than the national level with the national government allowing local governments to regulate them.
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