LTO exec supports legalizing ‘habal-habal’

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

A TRANSPORTATION department official in Northern Mindanao region supports the move of Misamis Occidental representative Henry Oaminal’s bill to legalize the operation of motorcycles-for-hire locally known as “habal-habal”, but he is wary over issues on security and safety.

These “habal-habal” have become the easiest mode of transportation in the country especially in areas where there are no routes for commuters or in areas where the terrain is difficult.

Hilarion Ulep, regional director of Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Northern Mindanao said Oaminal’s bill is laudable, however, the issues on security and safety of the drivers and passengers must be seriously looked into.

"What I like with the bill is that it accommodates and recognizes the technical competence of DOTC... hindi siya all-knowing. But they have to consider all the technical aspect, safety factor, design factor," Ulep said.

Should this bill pass into law, the issues on accidents, robbery and killings must be addressed first.

The bill has to concur with the guidelines of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Ulep added.

"Habal-habals are prone to hold up...inaagaw ang motor. Halimbawa may pasahero nagpahatid sa interior, tinutukan, madalas holdapan...hindi na recover, na recover man nakatay na chassis na lang naiwan," Ulep added.

The guidelines include the wearing of helmet by the driver and his passengers, insurances to people on board the motorcycles and other safety measures while on travel.

He emphasized that legalizing the “habal-habal” would mean a boost to the economic activities of the people living in the hinterlands, but the number of passengers has to correspond to the capacity of the motorcycle.

Ulep wondered how could an attractive girl passenger use the helmet already worn by other passengers who could have lice or dandruff in the head.

“Diba security din yon?” he said.

He said Congress would have to amend the existing Helmet Law should Oaminal’s bill is approved and be implemented.

Oaminal, author of House Bill 2322, said the measure aims to ensure the safety of the traveling public while maintaining a functional yet low-cost means of transportation with minimal financial disruption.

In a congressional newsletter, Oaminal said the "habal-habal" has been accepted by the riding public, but they remain an illegal means of transportation since they are not registered.

Ulep said LTO does not recognize "habal-habal."

"Passengers who will be injured or even killed while taking the “habal-habal” cannot claim benefits because this industry is not covered by insurance. The drivers or operators of the "habal-habal" also face harassment and mulcting from traffic enforcers," Oaminal was quoted as saying.

Under the bill, owners of "habal-habals" shall apply for registration with their respective local government units subject to the guidelines of DOTC.

The owners of "habal-habals" shall be required to obtain insurance coverage for third party liability prior to application of the franchise to operate their units.

The "habal-habal" shall be prohibited from operating along national highways and will be only allowed a maximum speed of 40 kilometers per hour.

The "habal-habal" is a motorcycle modified to seat more than two persons. It is used in provinces where jeepneys and tricycles cannot stand the rough, steep terrain and narrow roads.

The simpler "habal-habal" is a motorcycle with an extended seat protruding over the back wheel and can accommodate four persons including the driver.

The more complex form of the "habal-habal" can seat up to 13 persons, including their baggage. It has extensions consisting of wooden planks placed across the back seat of the motorcycle to form the seats for the passengers.

Some "habal-habals" are also operating in Metro Manila but they only accommodate one passenger.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 12, 2013.

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