The Philippine Star

Between Uber and Grab, two of the more popular ride-hailing services operating in the country today, the former has gained better favor from potential customers for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s app is more receptive to even the simplest smartphone owner, allowing Uber drivers in the vicinity to be dispatched more quickly. Second, Uber has a far bigger fleet in operation than its nearest competitor, Grab. Third, Uber fares are often lower than Grab’s, even during “surge” hours.

All these reasons, of course, are not important for now after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) stood firm on its order to suspend Uber’s operations for a whole month starting Tuesday this week.

This has created a sort of crisis among ride-hailing habitués who have no recourse but to rely only on Grab – which has reportedly charged more because of the sudden high demand for its services – or go back to taxi services – often stinky and badly in need of repairs to make them truly road-worthy.

Skirmishes with the law

More than Grab, Uber has had a long colorful history of disagreements with the law, and in effect, has been banned or has voluntarily pulled out from several countries or jurisdictions.

Uber is banned in the Northern Territories in Australia and Germany, but has had a long list of skirmishes with regulators in Canada, Dubai, France, India, Italy, Poland, Taiwan, Pakistan, United Kingdom, various states in the U.S., and now the Philippines.

Wikipedia offers details of these disputes that Uber has been involved in during the past years since it was founded in 2009. Much worse though, has been the issues that it has had to confront with the public that have damaged its reputation.

Some of these such as the revelation of Operation SLOG meant to sabotage its competitors’ operations have left a bad taste in the public’s mind. Uber has reportedly also employed dirty tactics on government officials or journalists that criticize it.

Crossing the line

With the LTFRB’s decision to suspend Uber operations for a month, several lawmakers have risen to denounce the regulator’s move. Among them are the chair of the committee on public services Sen. Grace Poe, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Reps. Jericho Jonas Nograles and Alfred Vargas – a powerhouse, indeed.

Poe called the order as “cruel and absurd,” citing the disenfranchisement of about 200,000 daily commuters. In the same breath, the rest have expressed the LTFRB decision to be against the interest of the riding public.

But to be more candid, Uber indeed has crossed the line by not following the rules set by the regulator. And for this, it should be sanctioned. Uber, together with Grab, had already been fined P5 million each last month for operating about 50,000 vehicles without proper permits.

The Palace has already given its support for the LTFRB decision, and being the heavier powerhouse, should have a weightier say on the matter. Of course, as Sen. Francis Pangilinan and Sen. Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV have opined, the LTFRB could have chosen to come with a punishment that would not affect the riding public, such as simply slapping Uber with a harsher fine.

Grappling with low wages

This is long-overdue letter send by David Wang that inadvertently got buried in the inbox. David has some quite relevant points that we would like to share with our readers. Please read on:

“The captioned article in The Philippine Star of May 9, while very relevant, misses addressing serious issues in the Philippines of very low pay and unemployment.

“Recently I gave a few thousand pesos to a 20-something Filipina who needed the money to update IDs to apply for a job as waitress. She has started work.

“A Filipino seemingly in his late twenties or early thirties with formal training in auto mechanics is cleaning rooms in a hotel being paid 12,000 pesos monthly.

“Another young Filipino is working as realtor being given 13,000 pesos in allowance monthly.

“While a 30-something Filipino security guard at the hotel where I am staying is paid 491 pesos for 8 hours without even monthly salary.

“And I met a 30-something taxi driver in Manila who makes about 500 pesos over 10 hours but sometimes nothing.

“Another taxi driver pays 1,400 pesos to rent the car from a company and says he can make about 1,000 to 1,400 pesos in 24 hours.

“Some years ago, I talked with a Filipina working in a bank who complained of constantly being in debt despite having a steady job with low pay.

“And I have talked with countless OFWs in Taiwan who can only afford to buy second-hand clothes despite being paid about 20,000 pesos monthly due to having to send money back home.

“One such Filipina had to borrow over 350,000 pesos for her mom's operation recently.

“Your article would be much more practical with certain parameters or premises set out to target specific segments.

“For example you could be talking to certain Filipinos being paid 30,000 pesos or more monthly who live at home to enjoy free room and board and also living within short walking distance to work to save on commuting, as well as being educated sufficiently to understand various investment vehicles.

“Otherwise, for the Filipinos I cite above, to save 1,000 pesos weekly is mostly a pipe dream.

“Of course, maybe you are talking to only Filipinos of well-to-do families.

“You also miss another critical social factor in the Philippines being one's obligation to help out relatives during crisis.

The most well-thought-out retirement saving plan would be derailed instantly by any family member falling ill, which surely happens regularly in the Philippines with poverty-induced poor diets, ignorance and lack of exercise.”

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