ANGKAS, an upstart motorcycle ride-hailing startup in the Philippines, was forced to cease operations after getting flagged by local regulatory board LTFRB.
According to the LTFRB, Angkas lacks the necessary permits to operate an alternative transport system in the country. Many of the startup’s supporters have taken to social media to protest the ruling.
In a stern announcement on Thursday, LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada, who played a huge role in the temporary shutdown of popular ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab a few months ago, stated Angkas is now practically closed for business. Lizada further stated that she and a team of LTFRB personnel apprehended 19 Angkas riders operating without the necessary permits.
“Considered as closed na (already),” Lizada stated in a text message, according to a Rappler report.
In a lot of ways, the circumstances of Angkas and its current run-in with the LTFRB are quite tricky. Permits to operate as a transportation firm in the country, after all, do not include provisions for two-wheeled modes of transport. Thus, Angkas has so far been formally operating as a software provider that pairs riders to passengers, nothing more.
In response to the shutdown, the motorcycle ride-hailing startup asserted that it believes in the proper regulation of alternative transport services. In an official statement on its Facebook and Twitter pages, Angkas called on the LTFRB to start allowing two-wheeled vehicles to operate under the Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS) category.
“On behalf of its bikers, Angkas has always been open to regulation… We hope that this unregulated sector can be professionalized and imbued with safety standards and coverage similar to that of the Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS). We respectfully ask out good Secretary of Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade… to consider an amendment… to allow two-wheeled vehicles under the TNVS category. Angkas is fully committed to engaging the LTFRB to discuss the steps forward for regulating this industry.”
Angkas, with its relatively low fares and its driver-focused incentive system, has become one of the preferred modes of transportation for thousands of commuters in the Philippines, as noted in a GMA News report. In Metro Manila alone, the startup has become a fast, convenient and affordable alternative to conventional transport services such as buses and taxi cabs, partly due to motorcycles’ capability to weave in and out of traffic.
Prior to its suspension by the LTFRB, Angkas has continually gotten more popular with both drivers and commuters. Angkas’ drivers, many of which belong to the middle and lower class, see the startup as an ideal way to earn honest, legitimate income. This has been echoed by many of Angkas’ social media followers after the company issued its response to the LTFRB’s sanction.
“It helps commuters, it generates income, it doesn’t cause any traffic, it’s reliable and simple to use! Most of all, it offers employment for (the) mid-class to (the) lower class sector. My husband is an Angkas driver. He’s a seaman we are considering this an income so he won’t (have to) leave (the) Philippines,” wrote one of Angkas’ Facebook followers.
“Angkas is considered closed. Before closing can you consider making an alternative first?” one of Angkas’ Twitter followers wrote, addressing the LTFRB.
Despite its widespread popularity, however, the past few months have proven incredibly challenging for Angkas. Earlier this year, a major accident involving one of Angkas’ drivers resulted in a commuter being left comatose. The startup was also beleaguered by a number of negative reports from prominent local press agencies.
For now, Filipino commuters who rely on Angkas to get through Metro Manila’s traffic would have to settle more conventional forms of transportation.