Two stories related to the transportation industry dominated the headlines today, July 17. First, there’s the caravan (or was it a strike?) that militant group PISTON or Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide organized to once more reiterate their opposition to the gradual jeepney phaseout plan proposed by the Department of Transportation.
Second features the apparent attempt of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board or the LTFRB to crackdown on the operation of Uber and GrabTaxi in the country as well as the public backlash against it. This article will focus here.
The principle of a free market economy tells us that companies that offer quality products and services at reasonable prices flourish because they attract lots of customers, while those who don’t fold up eventually. This system works best with minimal government intervention. Keep that in mind because later, we’ll see how that concept can be related to the situation concerning transportation network vehicle services providers like Uber and Grab.
Earlier today, LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada warned that after July 26 next week, it will be apprehending Uber and Grab drivers deemed as “colorums” – meaning, those that are operating without the necessary permit from the regulatory agency.
The thing is, there are complaints that LTFRB has inexplicably refused to process thousands of permit applications from July 2016 onwards. This is as silly as a teacher who refuses to give a student his clearance because of an unsubmitted project, when in fact, it’s the teacher’s fault for not checking the project sooner!
The government may not admit it, but Uber and GrabTaxi are very popular among commuters. The mobile app has made it unnecessary for Filipinos to spend too much time wait for a taxi, sometimes amidst extreme heat or torrential rains. It has also eliminated the need to negotiate the fare you’d have to pay.
Thus, the public are vehemently opposed to what they see as LTFRB’s biased actions against Uber and Grab. This online petition, for example, already has 85,000 supporters as of posting time. Also, patronizers of Uber and Grab popularized the hashtag #WeWantUberGrab throughout the day to oppose LTFRB’s moves.
Of course, Uber and GrabTaxi aren’t perfect service-providers. Every now and then, we hear horror stories featuring drivers that are rude, deceptive, etc. But come to think of it, it’s a problem that hobbles regular taxis as well.
In other words, there isn’t really a compelling reason to shackle transportation network companies except perhaps to eliminate the main competition for local taxi operators. Sadly, if LTFRB will have its way, then us commuters will have fewer choices to meet our transportation needs.
Maybe it would be good to remind the good people running the LTFRB of their agency’s mission, which says it must “Ensure that the commuting public has adequate, safe, convenient, environment-friendly and dependable public land transportation services at reasonable rates.”