‘Defiant’ Uber probed; execs air lament
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has ordered officials of the transport network company Uber to appear in a hearing today, citing its alleged defiance of an order for TNCs to stop accepting new drivers.
The LTFRB said that despite its July 26 order for TNCs Grab and Uber to stop, Uber “willfully and contumaciously violate[d]” the directive. Uber was also given five days to submit a explanation why its accreditation should not be canceled.
The LTFRB is currently reviewing the accreditation of the TNCs. Grab’s accreditation expired last month and while that of Uber is set to expire this month.
But in a text message to the Inquirer, Uber communications head Cat Avelino maintained the company had suspended new driver and vehicle activations since July 19, or eight days after the LTFRB issued an initial order for TNCs to stop accepting new applications.
“[W]e have not resumed since then. As a result, 14,000 riders are unable to book a ride every day,” Avelino said.
Last month, the LTFRB ordered the TNCs to stop the operation of drivers who do not have a certificate of public convenience or a provisional authority to operate. But the crackdown on colorum vehicles was deferred after the TNCs filed a motion for reconsideration.
PH lagging behind
Of the estimated 42,000 Uber and Grab drivers, only about 3,700 have permits to operate.
In a press conference on Tuesday, the eve of the hearing, Uber regional and local officials noted how the country had fallen behind its Southeast Asian neighbors in appreciating the benefits of the ride-sharing industry.
They also raised concerns over a recent proposal to impose a supply cap on Uber and Grab vehicles, while reiterating calls for the government to lift the year-old suspension on the acceptance of new member drivers.
“One of the shames about the Philippines is that back in 2015, there was a real sense that there was a clear momentum in this country to have the first national ride-sharing regulations,” said Damian Kassabgi, Uber Asia Pacific head of public policy.
“But frankly, since then, you’ve seen countries around the region overtake (the Philippines) in relation to their understanding of the service, and the way they are putting a framework around it,” he said.
Kassabgi noted that Malaysia recently passed legislation in support of ride-sharing without price controls or supply caps.
Against core principles
These are areas the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said it wanted to regulate. In terms of caps, there was a proposal last week to put a limit on the number of ride-sharing vehicles on the road. The LTFRB also saw a need for their drivers to put in a minimum number of hours.
Uber Philippines general manager Laurence Cua said these proposals would go against the core principles of ride-sharing, which was flexibility for both passengers and drivers.
“What I can tell you is that 60 percent of drivers use [Uber] on a part time basis,” Cua said, referring to drivers who work six hours or less.
Citing fluctuations in supply and demand, Cua also warned that limiting the number of eligible ride-sharing applications that can be approved would be “damaging” to the industry. Uber Philippines alone has some 30,000 drivers and one million active users, Cua said.
‘Taxi way of thinking’
“Having these supply caps is very much a taxi way of thinking about the world,” Kassabgi, citing countries like Malaysia and Singapore which have tight controls on private car ownership. “We do not see this concept of supply caps because regulators [elsewhere] understand that this is a demand responsive service.”
The LTFRB last month fined Uber and Grab P5 million each for continuing to add new drivers to their networks despite the moratorium imposed by the board in July 2016. The LTFRB at the time said it wanted to review existing policies covering such transport services.
According to Cua, some 200,000 rider requests “go unfulfilled” weekly because of the suspension.
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