EDITORIAL - So what is it really with the “habal-habal?”

The Freeman

The Cebu City council is now looking into a proposal that seeks to grant local franchises to the operation of "habal-Habal" or motorcycles for hire in order to regulate them. Needless to say, there is great sense in the move. People who patronize this mode of public transportation literally put their lives in the hands of the drivers who operate these motorcycles.

By regulating them, the city government acquires at least some semblance of control and authority over them, something that is totally absent at present. At the very least the drivers of these motorcycles will be identified and their vehicles registered. Right now there is no way of knowing whether the drivers are not drug addicts or criminals and their motorcycles stolen. In a word, there is so much to gain from the move.

The Land Transportation Office, however, is not keen on the idea of the city government issuing local franchises to "habal-habal" operations and regulating them. According to the LTO, a local ordinance cannot supersede a national law that prohibit the operation of motorcycles as passenger vehicles. In a word, that makes perfect sense as well.

And, as if to put emphasis on its position, the LTO said it might be compelled to start making arrests the moment the city begins giving out franchises to "habal-habal" operatioins. That, however, can only backfire on the LTO by putting it in a difficult position. It will open up the agency to questions as to why it has never lifted a finger in the first place against the "habal-habal" when it is no secret they are all over.

In fact, the LTO cannot claim ignorance about "habal-habal" operations because some of these operations are so open there are areas being served where the drivers have formed themselves into organizations, with their members being made to wear distinct uniforms. There is no need to tell the LTO where these areas are. They know.

But for whatever reason, the LTO has allowed these organized operations to go on. The public has yet to hear of one single "habal-habal" driver getting arrested for violating a national law that prohibits the use of motorcycles in passenger operations. So if these operations have been allowed to go on, why stop only now when something is being done to at least plug a few safety loopholes in their operations.

Perhaps the real, honest and straightforward answer is something that the LTO is not willing to say - that the "habal-habal" can keep on operating for as long as everybody can pretend it is not there. The moment you commit things on paper, as when the city council seeks to grant them local franchises, then it will be an official recognition of their existence, in which case the LTO can no longer pretend they are not there. End of story? Let us keep on with the charade.

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