Transport officials blame Uber, Grab for ride-sharing fiasco

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 18) — Transport officials defended on Tuesday their crackdown on unaccredited Grab and Uber vehicles despite widespread criticism from the public.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) held the Transport Network Companies (TNCs) responsible for violating the government's rules on accreditation and regulation of public utility vehicles and warned it will proceed on July 26 with apprehending vehicles that do not possess a provisional authority (PA) or permit to operate.

"The TNCs agreed to fully comply with the rules at the time they were granted accreditation. With their open and candid admission, it is clear that they have broken those rules grossly, putting at risk the tens of thousands of TNVS (Transport Network Vehicle Service) without PA or franchise to commit colorum activities," said LTFRB chair Martin Delgra III in a statement.

TNCs are the entities that own the applications such as Uber and Grab, where TNVS drivers register to operate.

LTFRB said since May 2015, only duly franchised vehicles are allowed operate. More than a year later on July 2016, it suspended the acceptance of new TNVS applications.

However, it said Uber and Grab still accepted and activated new TNVS drivers without informing them they are not allowed to operate, putting them at risk of apprehension.

"They have to show good faith first. Right now, they are not cooperating," Delgra said.

"We expect the TNCs to be candid, accurate, complete and transparent in submitting all the data and information the Board will need in addressing the issues," he added.

The statements come even as public support for the ride-sharing apps and ire against government regulators has grown in recent days.

READ: Netizens rally for Grab, Uber amid LTFRB order against unaccredited drivers

Grab, Uber violations

On July 11, the two companies were each fined P5 million for their violations and ordered to deactivate over 40,000 out of the 56,000 TNVS drivers not registered with LTFRB. They were also suspended from accepting new applications.

LTFRB said that in an inspection on Monday, Grab complied with the regulators' demands by not activating new applications. However, it said Uber was still activating drivers and giving them access to the app before being registered with the LTFRB.

Uber and Grab have yet to submit a master list of all drivers who have complied with LTFRB requirements and the permits to operate.

The LTFRB alleged that "some drivers are also accused of trading franchises among themselves. TNCs have also failed to comply with other requirements such as IDs for drivers and a company signage on the vehicles. There have also been numerous complaints on rude and abusive TNVS drivers."

LTFRB spokesperson Aileen Lizada said Uber paid the five-million-peso fine today, while Grab is expected to pay theirs on July 19, ahead of the July 26 deadline.

READ: LTFRB orders Grab, Uber to submit list of accredited operators

Delgra said rules and penalties on illegally operating vehicles applied to buses, UV Express vans, taxis, and jeepneys, and must also apply to TNCs, as the "the safety and welfare of the riding public is concerned."

He added TNCs must cooperate with LTFRB while a Technical Working Group is being created to probe accreditation and pricing matters.

LTFRB also criticized the TNCs for putting profits over their partners, with Grab getting a 60 million-peso cut from an estimated monthly income of P300 million from all its drivers. It added Uber gets a cut of P75 million from the similar income figure of its drivers.

No exemptions

Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade came to the defense of LTFRB and the government's move, saying they were not acting against the interests of commuters nor singling out the two ride-hailing services.

"Number one, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is all and has nothing and is not against any share ridership. Number two, that the DOTr is not against technology. The use of technology to improve the transport system in the country. Number three, we are not against convenience for the riding public, we are not against clean motor vehicles," Tugade said.

But he said the convenience and comfort extended by the TNVs did not exempt them from laws applying to public utility vehicles, and this means registering with the LTFRB.

"Kasama niyo kami, kapit-bisig tayo for a convenient transport system. Dapat kasama rin namin kayo para magkapit-bisig tayo para lahat ng naghahanap-buhay eh pumapasok din ho sa tamang regulasyon at sa plataporma ng tinatawag na plataporma ng compliance," Tugade said.

[Translation: We are one in unity for a convenient transport system. You must also be in united so all workers are included in the right regulation and the platform of compliance.]

Senator to file bill

Senate Committee on Public Service chair Grace Poe acknowledged the issues hounding government regulators and TNVS and pledged to file a bill in the senate to address this.

"The TNVs provide the comfort and reliability that many of our people look for in public transportation. The LTFRB should therefore strike a balance between regulating TNVs and ensuring that the public need for safe, comfortable, and reliable transportation is met," Poe said.

However, she noted the need for government to regulate TNVS.

"If anybody can just operate transportation services for the public, we may have an oversupply of common carriers in one area, or a lack of transportation in another. It may also result in traffic congestion due to additional vehicles on the road. This is why government regulation is still necessary," Poe said.

But she also questioned the length of time it took for the LTFRB to act on applications for provisional authority or a certificate of public conveyance, and sympathized with the plight of Grab and Uber drivers.

"Paano ngayon sila? Sino ang mananagot diyan? (What will happen to them? Who will take responsibility for that?) Was the LTFRB's inaction on their applications intentional?" Poe said.

Former LTFRB chair Winston Ginez put in his two cents' worth. It was during his term under the previous administration that the entry of TNVS in the country was initiated, despite objections from taxi associations, operators, and their allies in Congress, and even a temporary restraining order.

Ginez urged the LTFRB to "Let the voices of TNVS users be heard."

Smaller TNVS on the scene

U-Hop, a new app-based car-hailing service, explained on Tuesday why little to no vehicles are available in its system, despite having 3,000 new driver registrations in the past eight days.

"We opted to follow the regulations rather than defying it. We cannot activate without compliance. We cannot put our partners and passengers at risk," it said in a Facebook post.

However, u-Hop was hopeful the issue between the LTFRB and TNVS would soon be resolved.

"We want all TNC to stay. Comparatively, we are too small but we embrace the competition. We are thankful and respect these pioneers," it said.

CNN Philippines' Claire Jiao and Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.