Carpooling is Convenient and Risky, Here's What You Need to Know

It can be considered 'colorum'.
Photo/s: Echo Antonio

RJ, a BGC office worker, is willing to pay the equivalent of a one-month electricity bill for an unregulated carpool ride to his home province of Bataan, unmindful of the risks, in exchange for the convenience that corporate types like him require in the new normal.

While carpooling is technically illegal, long queues for a bus ride that exposes them to COVID-19 are a bigger concern for commuters who on weekdays dodge getting sick while hoping to book a Grab or Angkas ride.

"I would rather pay more to have a secure ride than wait for a long time," he told reportr. "Sa carpool you will just sit back, relax, and paggising ko nasa bahay na ko, sa gate ng bahay namin mismo."


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The plight of commuters like RJ illustrate the Philippines' "transportation emergency" where available public transport infrastructure can't keep up with the RTO or return-to-work demand, said The Passenger Forum, a commuter advocacy group.

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"Isang kailangan maintindihan ng gobyerno is that commuters will patronize 'yung colorum, carpooling or not as long as PUVs are insufficient or inconvenient," TPF convenor Primo Morillo told reportr.

Carpooling is convenient

Commuting stress adds to the worries of Filipinos, forcing them to look for alternative ways to get to their destination, said Morillo. 

Those who can't get a ride on the bus, jeep, or train may be drawn to carpooling, which can be free among friends or coworkers.

Carpooling can also be a paid service among strangers, depending on their internal arrangements. There's RJ and banker Rhys, who found carpool drivers on unofficial Facebook groups to give them a ride, if the price is right.

"It is hassle-free. You won’t go through booking conflicts that a lot of people experience," said Rhys, who carpools three times a week since she received her RTO in February.

Carpooling can be illegal

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Since carpooling vehicles are not registered to carry passengers, it is considered colorum by the government. With no guidelines, it is up to passengers and drivers to haggle for fares.

RJ said he joined multiple Facebook carpool groups so he can compare prices before committing to a driver. For his safety, he only joins carpooling groups with many members and books drivers who are recommended by other passengers. He also bookmarks back-up carpool drivers in case his usual driver isn't available.

He also takes photos of the car and its plate number for safety because he said carpooling does not offer safety features that ride-hailing apps like Grab have.

"Safety and lack of insurance kasi 'di mo naman masabi kung mabait ba 'yung driver or not," he said.

Mindful of the safety risks, TPF called on authorities to clarify rules on carpooling to ease transport woes without the fear of apprehension, said Morillo.

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Authorities had been clamping down on colorum vehicles after then Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade said it could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

While the group can't explicitly recommend it, Morillo said he understands the dilemma of commuters. He advised carpoolers to be careful when riding with strangers. It helps to check for the driver's ID since unlike those who work for Grab or Angkas, they can't be tracked that easily, he said.

"Carpool with those you already know or trust," he said.


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What the government can do

While the government can penalize colorum drivers, ultimately it's the commuting public who are burdened by lack of vehicles on the road, he said.

The UV Express was borne out of that same desperation by passengers years ago, said Morillo, when drivers of FX taxis figured they can fill their cars with passengers on a "per head" fare basis instead of taking a single passenger per trip. Now, the UV Express is legal, he said.

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"Ganun lahat ng klase ng colorum. Hindi dadami, hindi magkakaroon ng colorum kung sapat, komportable, convenient ang mga sasakyan," he said.

He also called on the new government to explore other options to make commuting easier, including safe bike lanes, expanded Pasig River Ferry operations, and transition to more sustainable transportation to address rising fuel cost.

"We hope na 'yung first 100 days will provide immediate relief and the entire six-year term should be utilized para ihanda ang long-term solutions."

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