Former LTFRB chair: ‘It’s all about money’

Uber coughs up P190 million to cut short its 30-day suspension


In the end, it all boiled down to cold, hard cash. Early afternoon yesterday, transport network company Uber attempted to cut short by 15 days a 30-day suspension by paying the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) P190 million.

Even as Uber resumed operations, LTFRB ordered it to not accept additional driver/vehicle applications pending further studies by a technical working group.

On Aug. 14, Uber was charged of defying the LTFRB order dated July 26, 2017 stopping further applications for accreditation of its vehicles.

LTFRB said that while Grab followed this order, Uber activated at least three more vehicles the day after the July 26 order.

The advisory released Aug. 14 indicated the one-month suspension “on the accreditation of Uber System Inc. and was ordered to cease and desist its operations of their online booking application during the period of suspension.”

Former LTFRB chair and former Land Transportation Office chief Alberto Suansing, current secretary-general of Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership who was invited by LTFRB last Friday for a meeting with taxi operators, told Inquirer Motoring: “The P190-million fine is just right. It is a board prerogative to impose that kind of penalty. This is because there was a complete disregard of the order of the LTFRB for Uber to cease from accrediting further the applicants for the TNVS [transport network vehicle services].”

Suansing added that if there was any group to be blamed for these troubles involving TNCs, it would have to be Uber, and its TNVS applicants.

“If anyone in the TNVS would say that they are in it for public service, tell that to the marines. It’s all about money,” said Suansing.

He also told Inquirer Motoring that the root cause of the country’s transport problems would still have to be the glaring lack of a respectable public transport system in place.

“Why is Uber and Grab highly patronized by the public? It’s because of the convenience. The passengers are informed right away of the details of the drivers, the kind of vehicle, and the amount to be charged. Passengers can complain right away. It attracts a wide market.

“In the meantime, if you ride a taxi, you hail a cab, you enter into a situation which I call ‘go, kill yourself.’ You don’t know if the taxi driver is a member of the syndicate, if the taxi is colorum or not. And when you complain, the LTFRB hotline is what I call ‘malamig pa sa bangkay’ (colder than a cadaver),” quipped Suansing.

The public transport system may have gone that rotten, but it certainly doesn’t mean Uber can operate above the law, Suansing stressed.

“Uber itself committed many violations. When its representatives first presented their business models to the LTFRB, they claimed it was a ride-sharing system.

“When you say ride-sharing, that means you have a car, you go to the office and along the way, you’ll pick up a passenger who will ride with you. But what happened? Uber kept advertising the amount to be earned, and enterprising individuals went on to form fleets of Uber cars. So, that’s no longer ride-sharing. And no one (from these ride-sharing services) bothered to even check the laws,” he explained.

Suansing said that the laws are clear: If you are engaged in carrying passengers or cargo for a fee, whether permanent, occasional or accidental, you have to get a franchise.

During last Friday’s meeting with the LTFRB and taxi operators, Suansing told taxi operators: “The only way you can beat Uber and Grab is to level up. And for taxi operators who can’t level up, leave the business because operators who are trying to level up are affected by those who wouldn’t want to. (What happens is that) there are already wholesale accusations against all taxis.”

Traffic situation

Meanwhile, Inquirer reported that Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Danilo Lim saying last Thursday that the traffic situation eased by about five percent.

“Based on what we’ve heard, it seems traffic improved slightly. Because the problem really in Metro Manila is the (volume) of vehicles,” Lim said in a press briefing at Malacañang.

While the number of vehicles has been increasing, the road network has not expanded at a similar rate, he told reporters.

“Of course, our traffic situation is still bad, but (Uber’s suspension) helped in some way,” Lim said.

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