Skid Marks

Riding sharing apps vs LTFRB; gov’t vs taxi fleet operators vs the people

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The Filipino public utility riding vehicle community has been in an uproar of late due to the government’s decision to ban all Grab and Uber vehicles from future operations.

The ban is scheduled to take effect on July 26, seven days from today.

There are of course several sides to this. The riding public claims that ride sharing apps and the service they provide are far better than traditional taxi fleet operators.

Grab and Uber vehicles are no more than five years old, are better maintained, deliver pin-point precision in their service (they can pick you up literally at your doorstep), never cheat/haggle or refuse service to drop you off to your destination, and since it is cashless, commuters generally feel safer.

You also do not have the problem of finding small bills or change when the ride is early in the morning or very late at night.

The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the government agency tasked to manage and monitor public transportation, essentially claims that all must be fair and respect the law of the land.

Uber and Grab vehicles, precisely because they are offered for public use, must secure a franchise for the operation of their vehicles and comply with all other requirements that taxi fleet operators need to comply with.

This is why the LTFRB had slapped a P5-million penalty on both Grab and Uber because both ride sharing apps essentially operated as taxi fleets, but without the requisite licenses, permits, and all other documents that a regular taxi fleet operator must secure to operate lawfully.

Previously, the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association through their president, Bong Suntay, and vice president, Leo Carlo San Juan, have reiterated that basically a few rotten eggs (unscrupulous taxi fleet operators and drivers) do not make the entire Philippine taxi industry vile.

Both officials of the nation’s taxi fleet have said that legitimate taxi operators have additional costs because they operate as legitimate businesses.

They further argue that both Uber and Grab offer absolutely zero accountability to their riders in the event of any unfortunate event or incident, which legitimate taxi fleet operators are burdened with.

Interestingly, a few observers of this entire debacle have summed up the state of ride sharing, particularly of Uber in the Philippines.

Uber was created as a ride-sharing app to help people share trips on the road.

The theory is that with people sharing rides to a common destination, greater efficiency, reduced traffic and reduced exhaust or greenhouse gas emissions from lesser number of cars will help everyone, while also reducing traffic and travel times.

This very basic essence or spirit was essentially left out when enterprising individuals realized the potential of buying a vehicle precisely for the use of Uber.

It went totally against the spirit of why Uber was founded because instead of a simple convenience tool for people looking for a convenient way to get to their destinations, entrepreneurs made a business out of it and totally killing the spirit of Uber.

In the early days of Uber, I’d regularly hear stories of drivers making over P20,000 in sales a week. This resulted in a massive buying spree from well-moneyed enterprising individuals who saw Uber as a legitimate means to make money as a ride sharing app while skirting the law.

I remember going to dealerships, and the sales agents would tell me that vehicles like the Toyota Vios, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Almera and Hyundai Accent were sold out with orders back-logged for months.

From my own experience, I can definitely say that I prefer riding in a vehicle with a Grab or Uber driver precisely because the vehicles are newer and safer.

Many taxis are indeed rolling death traps, and the government has failed to come up with legislation to safeguard a taxi’s roadworthiness and safety, not just to its passengers, but to other road users as well.

The LTFRB lacks any political will or mandate to do so, and is content on maintaining the status quo.

But I also commiserate with the legitimate taxi operators who feel that the playing field is not a level one because because Grab and Uber seemingly operate with impunity and have no clear accountability to the riding public.

Ultimately, the government is to blame for this. It failed to protect the people’s interest by failing to come up with stricter legislation safeguarding a traditional taxi’s roadworthiness.

It also should have immediately come up with guidelines or implementing rules and regulations for Grab and Uber drivers and owners so as to prevent them from skirting the law.

Yes, I agree that Uber and Grab, in general, offer a better overall experience for the passenger, but we should also realize that in the absence of proper legislation, we should not allow them to operate with impunity and disregarding the law of the land.

Order must ensue, and it is the government’s job to bring about order. Fairness is important as well.

Taxi fleet operators need to improve their cars, decommission taxi vehicles that are more than, say, a decade old.

On the other hand, Uber and Grab operators must comply with the current laws regarding use of their for-hire vehicles.

And the government must crucially act fast to create legislation that has a place for both. Ultimately, it must uphold the interest of the riding public.

Both have a place in our society because both will keep each other in check and force each other to improve their vehicles and their service.

But the playing field must be fair and level for everyone. If this happens, the riding public will be better served.



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