Navigating The Gridlock: The Grab, Uber Mess and Commuter Experience
THE OPERATION in the Philippines in recent years of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Grab and Uber offered the commuting public a new and welcome option, but it has not been without controversy.
Issues of compliance with local regulations had plagued both Grab and Uber. Shortly after the entry of the two TNCs (Grab in 2013, Uber in 2014), then Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) laid down guidelines for new transportation categories including Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) like Grab and Uber. The guideline set operating conditions, among them, for drivers to be registered with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
As the number of Grab and Uber cars ballooned with new drivers and vehicles, LTFRB decided to place a moratorium on new applications on July 2016, and then imposed fines in millions of pesos for the failure of the drivers to comply with the new regulation, ordering the suspension of all Uber cars causing the commuting public to lash back at the LTFRB. Recently, Uber paid a fine of PHP190 million.
Given this background, CMFR cheers the effort of GMA News TV’s Investigative Documentaries (ID) to provide the necessary context to the extent of public criticism of LTFRB’s decision. The documentary examined the Philippine commuter experience, compared the services offered and explained the basis of the new regulations.
Aired on August 10, ID’s documentary, titled “Pasahero” (Passenger), discussed the riding public’s longstanding complaints about taxis in the city, the poor condition of the cars, drivers who choose and pick their passengers depending on destination and the constant fear of being mugged or worse.
ID conducted an experiment with two commuters in Makati who are both Novaliches-bound with one hailing a cab and the other attempting to book a ride via Grab. The episode presented common issues such as taxi drivers who demand flat rates or refuse to take passengers due to the distance of destination, Grab’s price surges as well as the general difficulty of booking a ride during the rush hour.
The episode also shed light on the confusion between TNCs and partner drivers. While Brian Cu, Grab’s country manager, said that they explain the need to secure provisional authority (PA) and Certificate of Public Compliance (CPC) from the LTFRB, a partner-driver said that that he did not know he also needed to go to the said government agency. The PA is issued to operators while they await their CPC, a requirement to be able to operate. Atty. Aileen Lizada, LTFRB board member, said that it is the role of the TNCs to inform their partners about the need to be accredited by their agency. As a solution, Cu said they hired lawyers to ensure that documents of applicants are complete.
The presentation could not have been more timely, given the headlines on the recent suspension of the TNCs. It is clear the TNCs have emerged as an effective alternative option for the commuting public. But this is only one of the instruments of relief for the suffering public, and one that is not open to many more who are relegated to the usual horrors of long lines and insufficient options for transport. Hopefully, when the dust settles, the Department of Transportation can concentrate on addressing the all the urgent issues of public transportation..
Consistent media attention might force the government agencies charged with meeting the challenges of an ever growing commuting public to do the work that it is assigned to do.