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Will LTFRB’s tough stance on Uber be applied to taxi and bus violators?

With the month-long business suspension of ride-sharing operator Uber Technologies Inc. in the Philippines, many commuters have been left trying to cope with the difficulty of getting an alternative vehicle like Grab or a regular taxi, not to mention having to contend with “surge” prices.

LTFRB officials showed Philippine regulators are no pushovers when they set their minds and hearts to it: Robin Hood does not always get away with breaking the law no matter how wildly popular and liked he is.

Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) stuck to its own decision, no matter how controversial it was, and it’s a good thing Uber backed down and announced it would abide by the regulatory sanctions imposed on it.

The question now in the minds of the riding public is whether LTFRB officials will demonstrate the same toughness when influential taxi and bus operators violate the law. Or will they succumb when stronger financial and political pressure is applied on them.

Citizen Ortiz

Meanwhile, we received an interesting, but lengthy letter from a reader, Joselito Ortiz, commenting on Uber’s operations in the Philippines and letting off some steam on the LTFRB decision. Please read on.

“I am writing you in reaction to what has become a full-blown issue regarding Uber.

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“But first, a little background about myself. My name is Joselito Ortiz, 63, married, and a retired private employee. I am a Davao City resident, with address at Morning Heights, Buhangin, Davao City.

“I consider myself middle-class, so even when I was still actively employed I took public transportation when commuting, and I still do until now. There is no Uber operation yet in Davao City, but I’ve had experience with Uber in Cebu and Manila on multiple occasions.

“Previously, I had no choice except take the ordinary taxi even though I abhor taxi drivers so much I could vomit! And then Uber came! Before I actually took an Uber transport, I asked several people – my relatives and friends, my co-employees, and I even invited one co-employee to call for an Uber car and let me share the ride.

First experience

“My first experience in an Uber car was in Manila, from SSS at East Avenue to Market! Market! at Bonifacio Global City, and who wouldn’t be amazed?

•             I was excited upon seeing the gleaming brand-new Uber car.

•             Driven by a decent-looking and clean-cut family man.

•             And the ride was fantastic! The car smelled clean.

•             The driver did not have to ask for directions because he had an electronic map that guided him in real-time.

•             The driver did not take circuitous routes that results in overcharging, because the electronic map pointed out the shortest distance to destination.

•             There was no haggle and shouting over the fare because the fare was already known at the time of booking thru the internet.

•             No spraying of intoxicating gases that make passengers dizzy and ripe for hold-up or rape.

•             The change is always given, but sometimes I just tell the driver “keep the change.”

•             Uber does not choose passengers or destinations. Once, the internet booking has been accepted and routed to the Uber driver, the driver must take the passenger to his/her destination.

Answer to helpless tourists

“From Sept. 21 to Oct. 2 in 2016, my wife and I were in Johannesburg, and later Capetown, in South Africa. The hotel van was not always available, so on many occasions, we had to take a taxi to see tourist spots and shopping centers.

“We were in a foreign country, we didn’t know which places were dangerous and which were safe, we did not speak the local dialect so could not give directions to drivers in their own language. In short, we were very hesitant to take the regular taxi.

“But Uber operates in South Africa, and that’s the transport that we actually took. The Uber drivers there could speak English, they were family men so they were conscious of their behavior, and they were not mean-looking, their professionalism was clearly evident.

“In short, the Uber transport was the answer to helpless passengers like me, who are constantly vulnerable to haughty, dishonest and notorious taxi drivers who transport passengers in smelly, dirty and dilapidated taxis.

Clear choice

“Now comes the government, taking away this favored transport and forcing hapless passengers, especially women and children, to go back and become prey again of unscrupulous taxi drivers!

“I’m not aware of all the issues pertaining to the suspension of Uber. Perhaps the LTO (Land Transportation Office) might have some valid reasons, perhaps Uber might have some lapses in the compliance of our laws, I don’t know.

“But my point is: the LTO officials are not at the mercy of taxi drivers because they have their own personal or government-issued vehicles. The LTO officials have no experience in distinguishing the quality of Uber versus the regular taxi.

“But many commuters like me – like the students, women and children who must go home alone at night after school and after work – their choice is clear. The choice is Uber. To put it simply, with Uber you have peace of mind. When you get a regular taxi, you must be out of your mind.

“Why can’t the government simply tell Uber ‘this is the requirement for you to become legal, comply with it. We will give you three months, or six months, or whatever length of time is reasonable, to comply with the requirements, and then if you cannot comply, just cease to operate.’

“I’m sure that Uber, as professional as it looks, can understand, and provided the requirement is reasonable, and it is fair – meaning the requirement is the same for all taxis, whether Uber or regular taxi.

“So why am I writing you? I know there is something wrong somewhere, but I’m just a lone voice in the wilderness. Perhaps, you can call out certain people in government who can make things right. Perhaps, you have ideas how to keep Uber in the streets.

“But please, don’t be compelled to do anything because of this email. If anything, just consider this email as my way of unburdening my ‘sama ng loob’ against the termination of a viable option in public transportation.”

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us at www.facebook.com and follow us at www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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