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Gatchalian calls for LTFRB to re-assess Grab fare matrix

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Gatchalian calls for LTFRB to re-assess Grab fare matrix
This file photo shows Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian during a Senate hearing.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo, File

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday called for ride-sharing app Grab to explain what he said was the sudden surge in its fares. 

The senator, in a press statement, said he wants to see a logical basis presented by Grab Philippines justifying the firm's fare matrix. He also called for the LTFRB to step in once more to re-assess the Grab fare matrix amid the holiday season. 

"The high fare is killing the festive mood of many Filipino commuters. We don't want to let Grab play the Grinch who stole Christmas from Juan de la Cruz because of high fare," he said.

This came after the Philippine Competition Commission imposed a P23-million fine against Grab Philippines for breaches in their initial pricing commitments, prompting transport regulators to review the aforementioned fare basis to determine if any violations were committed.

Grab said in their defense that they were "working on a very limited number of drivers to serve an exponentially high demand." However, they did not dispute the fine imposed on them. 

The ride-sharing giant, which currently holds what has been called a de-facto monopoly in the Philippines, assured the public as early as June that its fares were still well within the prescribed LTFRB matrix. 

But commuter network The Passenger Forum (TPF) in a survey conducted that same month said that 78% of passengers of Grab units reported more expensive fares due to surge pricing.

The LTFRB in August released a memorandum emphasizing the board's rate fixing power and defining fixed fare rates for transportation network vehicle services (TNVS) under which Grab Philippines is classified. 

Memorandum 2019-036 provides that companies shall charge a flag down rate of up to P40 for car sedans, up to P50 for premium Asian or sport utility vehicles and up to P30 for hatchbacks and sub-compact vehicles, according to the press statement. 

Too many cars

Amid what transport and worker groups in October called a "mass transportation crisis," the MMDA also said that traffic congestion in the metro is expected to skyrocket as Christmas nears. 

Consequently, Grab country head Bryan Cu on Wednesday said, the most recent surge in booking prices was caused by higher demand.

In an earlier interview with Philstar.com, University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning Urban Studies Professor and Consultant Jed Gomez said that the influx of cars in Metro Manila is largely to blame for the bulk of the capital's traffic woes. 

"There's just too many of them. The public transportation is not adequate, so people are forced to buy cars, [and] it becomes part of the Filipino dream," he said. 

"If you provide a good alternative, people won’t be tempted to buy cars as often."

Because of the de-facto monopoly held by Grab Philippines over the ride sharing industry, Gatchalian said he encouraged other players to enter the game to better service the riding public. 

"Without competition in the hail-riding industry, our poor commuters will always be at the mercy of high fares," the senator said in closing.

"Kaya naman sinusuportahan natin ang pagpasok ng ibang players sa industriyang ito, gaya na lamang ng TNVS GoJek, upang may pagpipilian ang ating mga commuters at hindi sila nagtitiyaga sa mataas na singil ng pamasahe ng Grab."

(Ultimately, this is why we support the entrance of other players in this industry, like TNVS GoJek, so that our commuters have choices and would not have to depend on the high fares of Grab.) 

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