The House committee on transportation chaired by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes) approved the creation of a technical working group (TWG) that will fine-tune House Bill 2799 seeking to protect the rights of tricycle drivers and operators.
The TWG, to be chaired by Rep. Renato Unico Jr. (1st District, Camarines Norte), will fine-tune the bill, and enjoin stakeholders – specifically representatives from the tricycle sector and local government units (LGUs) – to share their insights.
Authored by Rep. Rosanna Vergara (3rd District, Nueva Ecija), the proposed “Magna Carta For Tricycle Drivers And Operators,” aims to ensure their continued growth as a sector and protect their livelihood from abusive local and national authorities.
The bill seeks to shield tricycle drivers and operators from abusive local and national authorities. Some drivers report collection of illegal fees, the illegal sale of franchises, and issuance of multiple permits for just one tricycle number.
Other recurring problems include the tough working conditions of drivers and poor maintenance of tricycles, compounding the air pollution problem.
The proposal provides for a simplified registration system, a one-stop-shop for tricycle operators, health care and social benefits, smaller penalties relative to their four-wheeled counterparts, the promotion of more economical and eco-friendly engines, and a more defined role for LGUs in the development of the sector.
It endeavors to protect workers in the sector from predatory pricing and illegal fees as it mandates a registration fee of no more than P1,000, which will be valid for a three-year period. The fee will cover the cost of the issuance of the license to operate, the filing fee, franchise fee, and other fees.
The Magna Carta seeks to eliminate abusive and predatory pricing as well. Fee charges will be standardized based on distance, with a corresponding fee schedule to be determined and publicly posted by the LGU to keep the riding public informed.
LGUs shall also establish a Tricycle Sector One-Stop Shop Center to handle transaction and processing of business applications within their jurisdiction. The Center will ensure the processing will be done on the day of application and that registration will be released within 36 hours upon submission of requirements.
The bill also defines the rights of the members of the sector, including the right to self-organize to collectively negotiate for their interest, right to informed participation in decision-making processes relevant to their concerns, and freedom from exploitation and harassment. HB 2799 also provides for Philhealth coverage, which can be claimed through a health card issued by the local government.
It also addresses the steep penalties the members of the sector face. Land Transportation Office (LTO) ordinances show that tricycles with violations, whether moving or not, are charged the same penalties as public utility vehicles like taxis. The inequity needs to be amended as tricycles enjoy a smaller revenue stream than taxis, according to the bill’s author.
The tasks of LGUs in service to the protection and growth of the tricycle sector are also laid out in the bill. The bill mandates LGUs to lead a tricycle maintenance program to teach members of Tricycle Drivers and Operators’ Association (TODAs) preventive and periodic maintenance.
Vocational education on automechanics and related courses, such as engine repair and maintenance, shall also be developed by LGUs in cooperation with the Department of Labor and Employment and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Moreover, LGUs are required to provide alternative livelihood and skills-training programs to allow tricycle drivers to explore more economically rewarding sources of income.
During the hearing held this week by the committee, lawmakers batted for the passage of the bill. Vergara said that tricycles are a highly relied-upon means of transportation in the country, especially in small towns and rural areas, and exact the least cost to passengers. She recognized the importance of tricycles as a secondary source of income to many vulnerable members of society, such as informal settlers and farmers.
“This bill therefore aims to uplift them by granting them a bill of rights that highlights their specific needs and realities. In other words, it provides a balance between the rights of the drivers and the passengers, with the local government units maintaining their supervisory and regulatory functions,” Vergara said.
Rep. Rodel Batocabe (Party-list, AKO BICOL) commended the bill, in particular its provision to standardize the regulations and traffic penalties for the sector. He noted the common practice of impounding tricycles, which he regarded as anti-poor.
While supporting the bill, Batocabe, however, cited the need to also discipline tricycle drivers and operators.
Rep. Fernando Gonzalez (3rd District, Albay) expressed support for the bill, but cautioned that the Magna Carta may intervene with the autonomy of LGUs in the regulation of the sector. However, there were no LGU representatives to provide inputs on the bill.
“Local governments have the right [na] ayusin nila ‘yung mga problema nila in whatever manner they can do it,” Gonzalez said.
But Vergara reasoned the bill endeavors to observe the autonomy of LGUs and exercise their regulatory power.
In light of the need for insights from the relevant stakeholders, the committee thereby ruled that a TWG will continue to tackle the bill.