Grab and Uber render LTFRB irrelevant
We will only go skin-deep if we view the Grab/Uber-versus-taxicabs controversy as a mere issue of who provides the commuting public with better service.
The deep-seated issue is this: Who actually performs the role of the government in protecting the welfare of the commuting public? Is it the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) which compels compliance with documentary formalities but does little else in looking after the commuting public? Or is it Grab and Uber which have systems that ensure the protection of the commuting public even without the strictures of state-mandated documentation?
With the LTFRB, we have a state agency that issues franchises as a precondition to operate taxicabs, even if these written permits are treated as virtual licenses to operate dirty and smelly public transport vehicles, and to hire drivers who reject passengers, who do not give correct change and are sometimes even outright criminals.
With Grab and Uber, we have private companies that accredit vehicles which follow the responsibilities expected from licensed public transporters, even if most of them don’t have LTFRB franchises.
The LTFRB has become an outright failure in the performance of its government mandate because its licensing scheme amounts to a useless system in protecting the commuting public. Now come two private companies with new systems that have demonstrated rousing success in performing responsibilities which the LTFRB has completely abdicated.
The LTFRB is oblivious of the fact that the success of both Grab and Uber represents a resounding public indictment of its failure as a government regulatory agency.
Unaware of the condemnation of its failure, the LTFRB acts as if nothing is wrong with its regulatory system, and nothing is correct and worth emulating in the systems of Grab and Uber. It requires vehicles affiliated with Grab and Uber to comply with its licensing requirements whose useless inadequacy is protested daily by complaining commuters. At the same time, it has done nothing to institute reforms in its system or regulatory rules to mimic the systems that have made Grab and Uber successful.
The LTFRB should seriously consider requiring all taxicab operators to hook up to a new technology application similar to those used by Grab and Uber that will give passengers the option to connect online with drivers, as well as to monitor and record online the details of the driver, the vehicle, the route and the fare. The LTFRB may either commission a private company to operate the system, or operate the new system itself for the entire industry.
Instead of requiring taxicab operators to pay expensive franchise fees, the LTFRB should require them instead to use the funds to link up to a new technology application. By embracing the benefits of a new technology, the LTFRB will enable itself to upgrade its antiquated regulatory system which has been proven ineffective.
Unless the LTFRB adapts to the challenge posed by private companies that are showing better ability to act as guardians of the commuting public’s welfare, its existence will increasingly become irrelevant.
In a previous column (“The creeping privatization of gov’t,” 10/10/16), I pointed out that “the private sector’s expanding conquest of public services is happening.” Private companies are taking over the role of the government in providing for the people’s needs in energy, water, education, health and postal service. There is also increasing reliance on private security guards instead of the police force, and a growing resort to private arbitration instead of the regular courts. Now, even the government’s role in regulating public transport is being taken over by private companies because the LTFRB has proven ineffective.
Doubtless, the Filipino people dream that someday, someone will invent a technological application that will render extinct the government’s biggest white elephant: Congress.
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