Libre: Habal-habal

Seriously now

IT HAS been about five years since my last visit to Cebu and many things have changed since then.

Upon arrival, I was totally impressed with the re-designed, modern and upgraded Mactan-Cebu International Airport. But once outside, it is the same with porters insisting to carry your luggage without consent, untidy streets along Mandaue City, dangling wires in electric posts and familiar old structures that are either dilapidated or ugly.

But it is a different story when you enter the central business district of Cebu in Ayala and the IT Park.

Cebu City has totally changed from the one I grew up in the ‘60s to the turn of the century. It has become another faceless urban jungle of high-rise edifices and commercial establishments inhabited by a rat race population. There is the traffic gridlock in major thoroughfares. And then those marauding army of motorcycles--the “habal-habal.”

Veteran media man Emm Espina told me that motorcycle accidents is now the number one cause of deaths in the Philippines. He could not contain his anger, as a motorcyclist crossed his path, while maneuvering the vehicle where I was a passenger.

I took a taxi to attend a meeting and struck a conversation with the driver. He lamented on how “habal-habal” has taken over the streets and how this impacted on legitimate public utility vehicles (PUVs).

He claimed that the colorums have eaten a large slice of the riding public and most are driven by individuals who fail to observe road courtesy. He said that he is considering leaving his occupation with the dip in his take-home pay as a result of the unfair competition.

The hands-off policy of traffic enforcers has contributed further to the proliferation of this illegal industry.

Even the Land Transportation Office has taken issue on motorcycle dealers that sell motorcycles for a downpayment of only P3,000 even without registration. It estimates about 100 dealers in Central Visayas are without accreditation.

It is time that government declares “habal-habal” a menace to society for endangering not only the lives of people, but also the livelihoods of those operating legitimate PUVs.

“Habal-habal” should be banned in urban areas as a mode of public transportation. There should be no way that franchises be issued to motorcycle operators. “Habal-habal” has contributed to the escalation of the unending traffic problem and has caused considerable number of deaths. If this malady continues, we should hold our public officials accountable.


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