LTFRB has much to explain
Sen. Grace Poe has every reason to suspect the actions of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board against ride-hailing service providers such as Uber and Grab.
The LTFRB seems bent on making it difficult for this modern-day transport service to prosper in the country. And it’s difficult to fathom why.
It all started with the unusual delay in the LTFRB’s crafting of the implementing rules and regulations to govern the internet-era public transport service starting two years ago.
And while it was taking its sweet time to come up with the rules, it ordered a freeze on the approval of franchises for the so-called transport network vehicle services (TNVS) firms.
The result: tens of thousands of prospective Uber and Grab drivers failing to get the necessary permits and, in turn, less available vehicles for the commuting public.
Worse, Uber and Grab were penalized with monetary fines and threats of cancellation of their permits for accepting in their networks drivers without the LTFRB franchises, the approvals of which the agency itself had frozen.
Enter 2018 and the LTFRB is training its sights on constricting TNVS firms again.
First, it wanted to ban small or compact cars from being accredited by ride-hailing companies, even if these are brand-new units. Yet, at the same time, it allows dilapidated or ill-maintained taxicabs to ply the streets of the metropolis.
Poe had earlier questioned the logic behind the LTFRB plan. She argued that while safety is a paramount concern in any mode of public transportation, the fact that many hatchback or compact cars have been allowed to operate as TNVS for the past two years without incident, then the LTFRB should consider the livelihood of those to be affected by its plan.
LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada had been quoted as saying that the agency was planning to ban and remove the accreditation of small, compact cars or non-2,000-cc-rated vehicles for Uber and Grab, citing passenger safety.
If this policy is ever implemented, then it should apply to taxicabs, of which nearly all units fall below the 2,000-cc engine rating.
Besides, Poe noted, if such small vehicles were safe for personal use and to carry family members, how are they not safe to ferry passengers?
Last Monday, the senator had to again call the attention of the LTFRB for yet another move against ride-hailing service providers.
The agency now wants to limit the number of cars for the entire TNVS sector to 45,000 units in the metropolis, or less than half the number currently operating in Metro Manila.
The LTFRB also plans to cap the number of TNVS cars to 500 in Metro Cebu and 200 in Pampanga.
The agency recently issued Memorandum Circular 2018-003, which sets a “common supply base” for TNVS providers. All ride-hailing companies will share this pool, without exceeding it.
This sounds silly because there are about 100,000 TNVS vehicles operating under Uber and Grab — a number that is not sufficient to satisfy the current demand of the commuting public — and the LTFRB should start with this as the base and adjust accordingly using scientific analysis.
Indeed, the LTFRB has to disclose the formula it uses to come up with those numbers. What supply-and-demand assumptions did it consider? It should make public the minutes of any consultation meetings it had to come up with those figures.
Poe put it aptly: “Some formula would have been used because these figures, which are important to the riding public, cannot and should not be plucked out of thin air.”
Besides, the disclosure of this important issue is what the rules on freedom of information require in the interest of transparency.
If the LTFRB wants to impose such stringent measures on ride-hailing firms, fairness dictates that it should also impose the same safety standards on all kinds of public utility vehicles — taxis, jeepneys and buses.
It should make sure that all these public transportation vehicles are safe, environmentally friendly, and comfortable.
Focusing solely on ride-hailing firms only makes the LTFRB suspect.
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