A GOVERNMENT BODY has recommended ending a program temporarily allowing motorcycles to transport commuters, which will effectively make their operations illegal.

The Transportation department’s technical working group (TWG) submitted the report to Congress and Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade on Jan. 17. It recommended the termination of the pilot test, which was supposed to run until March, after one of the three motorcycle ride-hailing operators filed a lawsuit questioning some aspects of the program.

“We are resorting to legal rigmarole with what’s happening here,” Antonio N. Gardiola, Jr., who heads the TWG that oversees the program, told reporters on Monday after a Senate hearing.

The transport regulator formed the TWG in December 2018 to address calls to include the two-wheeled vehicle as a legal transportation mode. The law does not recognize single motorcycles to operate for public transport.

Mr. Gardiola said their study on the viability and safety of motorcycle taxis had been impeded by the lawsuit filed by dominant player Angkas “so it’s better to terminate it.”

Motorcycle operations would probably end in a week, he added.

Mr. Tugade has endorsed the action to lawmakers, who were supposed to pass a bill based on the success of the program, Mr. Gardiola said.

Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, whose public transport committee heard a hearing on motorcycle taxis yesterday, criticized the move.

“We want to pass a bill but it should be based on your study,” the lawmaker told Monday’s hearing in Filipino. “We are not experts and we were depending on you because you have the mandate to do that study,” she told Mr. Gardiola.

“You are canceling the program because you don’t want to do your job,” Ms. Poe said.

In a report submitted to Mr. Tugade dated Jan. 17, the TWG led by Mr. Gardiola recommended the termination of the pilot study, citing “numerous obstacles perpetrated” by DBDOYC, Inc., the operator of Angkas. These included a rally staged by Angkas riders, filing of petition for injunction by DBDOYC, and “numerous social media statements disparaging the TWG.”

It also recommended that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) blacklist DBDOYC “from further participating as a motorcycle taxi service provider via ride hailing platform or application…. as they blatantly exhibited defiance on mandated guidelines set forth by the TWG.”

In a statement issued after the Senate committee hearing, the TWG said that it is “considering the sentiments raised by the members of the Senate Committee on Public Services, as well as by other stakeholders.”

“In fact, right after the Senate hearing, the TWG immediately convened to initially discuss such sentiments. The TWG shall further discuss all these on Wednesday. After which, a report shall be submitted to (Secretary) Tugade,” it said.

The TWG also scheduled another meeting with stakeholders, Angkas, JoyRide (We Move Things Philippines, Inc.), and Move It (We-Load Transcargo Corp.) on Friday.

“I think this is a positive development on both sides. We will be sitting down with the technical working group and hopefully, maayos ang mga issues (the issues will be resolved),” George I. Royeca, Angkas head of regulatory and public affairs, told reporters on the sidelines of the hearing.

Asked if Angkas would be willing to withdraw the cases, Mr. Royeca said: “we are.”

“Our only issue is the cap per operator and if we’re able to resolve that then there’s no issue or any court cases,” he said.

A Quezon City trial court earlier stopped the government from cutting the service bikers of motorcycle taxi operator Angkas to 10,000 from 27,000.

The technical working group had extended its pilot run of motorcycle taxi services from December to March, but set an equal cap among three providers: Angkas, JoyRide and Move It.

The three must split the new limit of 39,000 bikers among them, with each being allocated 10,000 bikers for Metro Manila and 3,000 bikers each for Cebu City.

Mr. Gardiola earlier said they added two more operators to avoid a monopoly during the data-gathering process. Angkas riders may even choose to transfer to other operators.

Angkas, which warned of job losses, had been the sole service provider during the initial six-month trial run that ended last month, in which 27,000 of its bikers participated. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Arjay L. Balinbin