Attacks on the livelihood of Angkas and habal-habal riders


Due to the absence of an efficient public mass transport system across the country, many commuters opt to avail of the services of motorcycle taxi riders in urban centers and habal-habal riders in the countryside. Instead of improving the rotting transport system, the Duterte regime is hell bent on attacking the livelihood of riders who only seek to earn a living and help ease the traffic woes of commuters. This only proves that the regime is anti-people and utterly contemptuous of the welfare of the majority.

Attacks on Angkas riders

Commuters are constantly faced with mobility issues because of the rotting public transport system in the country. To avoid gridlock, many in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu depend on the services of Angkas, a company that provides ride hailing services using motorcycle taxis. Many commuters avail of its services as motorcycles are more compact in size and can easily maneuver even in congested roads. This is a big deal for commuters as they are able to save up time and money.

Angkas was only established in December 2016 but its operations expanded rapidly simultaneous with the worsening of the traffic situation. Due to lack of sufficient and decent job opportunities, many were enticed to work for the company as full-time riders are able to earn up to P1,500 per day. In December 2019, the company employed up to 27,000 riders.

Instead of supporting the riders, the regime, through its Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), ordered Angkas on December 2019 to lay-off 17,000 of its riders. The LTFRB claimed that this had to be implemented to be fair amid the entry of new players in the industry. Recently in January, two motorcycle companies, namely JoyRide and Move It were permitted to operate in Metro Manila. Under the guise of ensuring “fair competition,” the LTFRB implemented a 10,000-rider cap for all motorcycle taxi companies.

The LTFRB had no mechanism to ensure that all those laid-off would be absorbed by the new companies. The mass lay-off in Angkas is not only an attack on the livelihood of the riders and their families but also to the hundreds of thousands of commuters who depend on their services.

This was not the regime’s first attack on Angkas riders. In November 2017, the LTFRB canceled the permit of Angkas to operate as its services purportedly violate traffic regulations. The cancellation was only lifted in May 2019 and riders were allowed to operate temporarily for a pilot study. The pilot program and the permits of Angkas, JoyRide and Move It are set to expire next month. This will result in the massacre of not less than 30,000 jobs in Metro Manila alone.

Attacks on habal-habal riders

Long before motorcycle taxis thrived, habal-habal services were already a popular mode of transportation especially among the toiling masses. Motorcycles-for-hire, colloquially called habal-habal or “skylab” are used as an alternative mode of public transport in the countryside and even in towns where transportation services are scarce. Habal-habal rides are practical especially in far-flung areas where roads are usually narrow, steep and rough and cannot be accessed by tricycles or four-wheeled vehicles.

There are two types of habal-habal. This first type is that which has a wooden plank attached to the main seat of the motorcycle. This can accommodate up to five passengers. The second type of habal-habal is that which has protruding “wings” or two wooden planks attached on each side of the motorcycle. This can accommodate up to 13 passengers.

Habal-habals are often used by peasant residents in transporting their farm produce to markets. These may also used in carrying baggages and even livestock.

Habal-habal riders may be considered as part of the rural proletariat. Due to insufficient income and widespread landgrabbing and land-use conversion, many peasants are compelled to look for additional source of income. Many farmers consider habal-habal driving as an alternative source of income.

Despite being a popular alternative, the reactionary government strictly prohibits habal-habal services as it purportedly violates traffic regulations. Most habal-habals in provinces are not registered with the LTFRB as the application process is expensive and very stringent. Because of this, habal-habal riders are often apprehended and their motorcycles confiscated. They are then fined with P5,000. Often, they are also victims of extortion by soldiers and police operatives in checkpoints.

Riders are also burdened with rough roads in the countryside as these wear down habal-habal parts quickly. In addition, they are also faced with increasing prices of fuel and other basic commodities. These problems further cut their already meager incomes.

Their plight compels them to unite and struggle. In the barangay level, riders organize associations to fight for their right to livelihood. These associations set local transport regulations including the standardization of fare rates and ensuring the safety of passengers among ma­­ny others. These associations are also mobilized du­­­­­­ring disasters and emergencies in the barrio. Riders see their travels to and from various roads as part of their daily livelihood and obligation to provide transportation services to their fellow villagefolk.

Despite this, they still fall victim to the armed state forces’ fascist suppression. This aims to silence riders and suppress their struggle for the right to livelihood. Among the most recent cases of suppression against riders was that of Lito Itao, auditor of the Guihulngan City Habal-habal United Operators and Drivers Association, who was killed by 3rd ID elements in June 2019, in Negros Oriental. To justify the killing, the fascists made it appear that the victim was a member of the New People’s Army.

The suppression campaign of the reactionary state compel habal-habal riders to directly contribute in advancing the people’s democratic revolution. Among other tasks, some riders regularly provide logistical and intelligence support to Red fighters.

Attacks on the livelihood of Angkas and habal-habal riders