The Philippine Star

App-based ride-hailing startups like Grab and Uber continue to gain popularity among its loyal and potential customers, and in the midst of the controversy spawned by our aggrieved government regulators and affected taxi operators and drivers, it is best that better regulations are quickly instituted.

Lawmakers are currently looking at how they can introduce new laws, although it must be recognized that the ball is really in the hands of the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board which has the power to regulate transport network companies like Uber and Grab.

Being recent innovations in the transport industry, these services are improving and changing day by day to meet consumer demands. For example, whereas Uber only accepted credit card payments before in the Philippines, they now accept cash, mainly because Filipinos don’t like using their plastic cards for such things.

There are also new additions to their services such as vehicle sharing, motorcycle pick-ups, and now, I hear there are also vans rentals. They also develop their own pricing systems, which clearly are not what taxis currently use.

Changes concepts in urban mobility

These companies are indeed changing the way we think about urban mobility. In the process, they create new problems for government regulators who feel that their orderly turf is being turned upside down.

In Metro Manila, for example, where traffic is so bad, these ride-hailing transport companies constantly think up of new products or using tools like Waze that will help the harassed commuters get to where they want to go while experiencing the least discomfort.

Of course, LTFRB would want to be one, two or more steps ahead not just to guard against over-population of these ride-hailing vehicles in an already over-crowded road network, but also to be able to bring in more revenues for government through operating fees and taxes.

Just like any new product that gains popular support, if there are no regulations in place to protect public interest, then the government must come up with guidelines and sanctions that would govern the use or sale of such – quickly.

These affected companies may haggle, compromise, or protest – but at the end of the day, they have to follow the laws or regulations that come out.

Suggestions and questions by a reader

Following is a letter by one of our readers, Raymond Tumao, on the issue.

“In relation to the ongoing confusion between the LTFRB authorities and the Uber/Grab operators, I would like to share some thoughts which I myself am wondering if they would work out in case somebody would push through with them.

“I live in a village south of Manila with an estimated population of 12,000 families. Our village has approximately more than 12,000 car stickers attached to their corresponding vehicles, which are owned by homeowners, relatives and friends including vehicle owners passing through our village and the adjoining villages around us.

“Regardless if there are Uber or Grab drivers in our vicinity, what if we in our village create our own non-profit organization or association and provide ourselves with transportation on a real-time and as-needed basis.

“An example of this operation or service is: I will inform our group’s telephone operator that I will need a ride to go somewhere in Global City at a specific time. The operator will then ask our group if there is an available vehicle for that specific time.

Legal concerns

“ Assuming a villager responds to the call and the caller is picked up from her residence and is eventually brought to her destination, is there any violation on the part of the caller or the driver?

“And if the caller would voluntarily pay for the fuel used in bringing her to her destination plus a little more for the time allotted to her and a little depreciation for the vehicle used, is there any violation whatsoever and what law would prevent friends from buying fuel to enable a car to bring her to her desired destination?

“Since we are all members of our private organization, we would not need receipts except for the fuel receipts and sometimes, lube and periodic maintenance receipts of the vehicles in use.

“In an another unique example, assuming I have a relative balikbayan arriving next week and I want her to be collected from the airport, and I also need another van to bring us all to Vigan and back.

“Again, our group’s operator would respond. Expenses for the airport pick-up and the travel to Vigan and back shall all be considered circumstantial, and we are very much willing to pay for everything.

“The whole transport process is very safe because we belong to our own private community and we know the drivers and owners of the vehicles who will serve our needs. Question: Is there a violation of any law?

“In my opinion, the LTFRB wants to regulate the operation of transporters who operate their vehicles as public conveyances. Presently, the LTFRB cannot find a way to collect money from the modern transport systems like Uber and Grab because the nearest system to them is only the phone-in taxi operators.

“Taxis and UV [utility vehicle] garage operators pay certain fees to the LTFRB annually, and I will not dare to mention how much they really pay just to get their franchise.

Ride sharing in Seoul

“In one of my transport studies abroad, I experienced the ride sharing of taxis in Seoul back in 1991. It was very strange to me because passengers could hail the taxi I was riding, and each of us would pay only the fare equivalent to the traversed distance.

“For example, if another passenger rides with the meter registering at say 40,000 won and he alights when the meter registers at 90,000 won, he only pays for the difference of 50,000 won. I paid for 60,000 won because when I hailed down the taxi it was still vacant and when I alighted from it, the meter was at 60,000. 

“I hope we Filipinos would be more practical and cautious when availing the benefits of modern technology. Let us use the web communications facility in a wise way and never disregard the importance of human judgment.

“In the case of my imaginary group of common villagers, our way of ride sharing will take its benefits from the wireless technology we have today.”

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