If you’re Filipino, you would know that two government agencies, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (KTFRB) often clash over various issues. The two Philippine government agencies have previously been at odds over issues of public utility buses on EDSA and colorum trucks—the latter even needed the Malacañang Palace to step in to resolve the disagreement between the two.
Uber, Tripid and similar car service apps are changing the way people commute in the Philippines. They bring relief to traffic congestion problems that plague Manila, but at the same time, they raise issues with authorities regarding compliance to the laws of the land and regulation. And with Uber’s history of clashing with many government bodies, it is no exception.
On October 22, Interaksyon reports the LTFRB conducted a sting operation. Around 200 Uber service vehicles were apprehended. These vehicles could face a penalty (P120,000 for sedans and P200,000 for utility vehicles) and impoundment of at least 3 months, LTFRB officer Dennis Barion told GMA News Online.
Uber says what the LTFRB did was “unfair”, while the MMDA sides with the e-hailing app.
‘LTFRB, Find Ways to Regulate Uber’, Says MMDA
“Perhaps there is another way of looking at this system, as no irregularity under the Public Service Law, as amended, is being committed here, and has proven to be beneficial to commuters.”
– MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino
Instead of imposing a fine and impounding Uber vehicles, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino suggests the LTFRB should find ways to regulate the ridesharing service. In a statement released by the government agency, Tolentino urges the LTFRB “to find ways to reasonably assist transport services like local Uber … citing that such private initiative will help ease traffic in Metro Manila pending the availability of a modern mass transport system, among other things.”
“Uber or carpooling is a well-meaning effort intended for public safety and convenience that’s why people are patronizing it. We cannot curtail their mobility rights. This is similar to private bridal cars and private ambulances for rent, which is a private transaction between the rider and the owner of the vehicle.”
– MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino
Tolentino openly supports Uber, as well as Tripid and similar services, because it helps ease traffic congestion and perhaps most importantly for public officials, it commits “no irregularity under the Public Service Law”. Tolentino, however, clarifies in the statement that “the government would not allow the taxicab industry to fail”. But he believes these services should not be curtailed because they also provide commuters a wide range of opportunities in terms of getting transport and moving about in the city in addition to convenience, comfort and riding safety.
‘We are Only Doing Our Job’, Says LTFRB
As has been previously reported, the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association (PNTOA) filed a complaint at the LTFRB against Uber accusing it of conducting “colorum” operations.
As a refresher, LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez previously stated the agency classifies Uber as a public service company. Operating vehicles for hire without a franchise is “a criminal violation of the public service law”. However, the chair was recently quoted by the Inquirer as saying:
“(Uber) doesn’t need to secure a franchise because it’s not a transport company, they don’t carry passengers. But through its application, private unlicensed vehicles are able to engage in public land transportation without securing a franchise from LTFRB.”
– LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez
The recent sting operation, although indirectly affecting Uber, is actually directed towards owners of private vehicles who use the service. Acting on the complaint filed by the PNTOA, the LTFRB stated it was “just being fair” to legitimate franchise owners. The agency is also concerned of passengers’ safety as they are not covered by any accident insurance when riding Uber service vehicles, although many netizens were quick to point out that it is safer to ride Uber vehicles than a taxi cab.
“We are just being fair with legitimate franchise owners.”
– LTFRB Executive Director Roberto Cabrera
With regards to the app itself, the agency said that they “haven’t looked into Uber’s liability in so far at the LTFRB is concerned”. However, Ginez notes Uber is facilitating the communication between commuters and private vehicles that violate the Public Service Law, so it could be accounted for that.
We can only wait and see how this whole argument over Uber will turn out. But here’s hoping commuters will win either way.