A MEASURE legalizing the operation of motorcycle taxis hurdled a joint Senate panel after gaining the support of 16 Senators, Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares said Thursday.

The Committees on Public Services and Local Government approved Senate Bill No. 1341, which if passed would become the Motorcycles-for-Hire Act. The bill reclassifies motorcycle taxis as eligible for public-utility vehicle status.

“We are inching closer to having a law that will make motorcycle taxis a part of our public transportation system,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares, who chairs the Public Services panel, said in a statement Thursday.

The bill defines motorcycles-for-hire as a two-wheeled motor vehicles which can transport passengers and goods, which may be hailed online or via any pre-arranged transportation platforms.

The bill sets a weight limit for motorcycles of 1,000 kilograms and capable of speeds exceeding 50 kilometers per hour. It must have a minimum engine displacement of 125 cubic centimeters.

The bill requires registration with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and regulation by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Ms. Poe-Llamanzares noted the Senate will continue to propose measures to improve the safety of motorcycle vehicles, which was among the concerns raised in the legalization.

As of Feb. 12, the Motorcycle Taxi Pilot Implementation Study’s technical working group (TWG) estimates that 20,000 authorized drivers operate for the Angkas service, 15,000 for Joyride and 6,409 for Move It in Metro Manila.

Angkas also has 4,500 authorized drivers in Metro Cebu and 804 in Cagayan de Oro; while Joyride and Move It have none.

The Department of Transportation interagency TWG earlier increased the cap for motorcycle taxi drivers to 45,000 from 30,000 in Metro Manila. It also expanded the coverage of the pilot testing to include Cagayan de Oro City and Metro Cebu with a cap of 9,000 drivers each.

Retired Police Major General Antonio B. Gardiola, Jr., who chairs the TWG, said the Transportation department is open to extending the pilot run, which will end on March 23. — Charmaine A. Tadalan