LTFRB must dispel regulatory capture
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - December 7, 2018 - 12:00am

The infighting at the LTFRB hints at regulatory capture. At its center are chairman Martin Delgra and ex-board member Aileen Lizada. An inquiry into their rap-swaps can show if the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is living up to its name.

Lizada averred at the Senate this week that Delgra had falsified a board issuance. Supposedly Memo Circular 2018-022 had contained her signature without permission. The signature page 3 of an earlier MC 2018-020 allegedly was appended to the later one to falsify her consent. The later MC 2018-022 exempts 159 buses from passing through a “land port” in southern Metro Manila.

The charge is worse than mere favoritism. Delgra flatly denied it, also at the Senate. Starting Nov. buses coming from south of the metropolis must turn back at the new Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) instead of further clogging up city traffic. PITX arrivals and departures are listed down and charged parking fees. Those that have “kambal plaka” – fake license plates of the same number as the originals – are exposed. Rickety smoke-belchers are debarred. The public is afforded safe, clean rides. Exemptions might negate all that.

Transport assistant secretary Mark de Leon has admitted the exemption of 159 buses. Purportedly their routes had been converted from provincial to city. Legislative inquiries can determine when the conversion was made, and if posthaste to preempt the memo issuance.

Transport men are fond of rushing, invoking President Duterte’s annoyance with long queues of taxpayers waiting to be served. If so, then LTFRB swiftly must resolve the accreditation of ride-hailing firm Go-Jek. The application for Transport Network Company permit was filed as far back as August. By delaying, LTFRB is letting Grab monopolize the scene, against the Philippine Competition Commission’s wish. Others that LTFRB had approved – U-Hop, Hype, MiCab, Owto, Hirna – are either too small, exclusively for taxi hailing, or outside Metro Manila.

Indonesia’s largest ride-hailing firm, Go-Jek provides logistics and other services aside from vehicles-to-go. With investors like Google, Tencent and Temasek, it is big enough seriously to compete with Grab. Recently it launched in Singapore and Vietnam, soon to follow in Thailand.

Bigger competitor Uber had succumbed to Grab last March, selling its Asia branch to the latter. Since then, riders with no other choice have been complaining of higher rates and poorer services. Price surges and ride rejections allegedly became more frequent. Driver-partners too have griped about stiffer quotas. In Nov. a Grab rider mortally was injured in a smashup involving a supposedly overworked drowsy driver.

Go-Jek first stated interest in breaking into the Philippine market in April. LTFRB’s Lizada then proposed to ban foreigners from entering and bankrupting domestic firms. Nasty murmurs sprang about who was protecting whom. (Singapore-registered Grab is Malaysian; it now claims to be 60-percent Filipino, still to be proved. The last time reps talked about its app in an LTFRB hearing, Grab said it was controlled from Singapore, prompting a congressman to question its nationality.)

On Aug. 9 LTFRB sought to freeze new TNC accreditations. Four days later, Aug. 13, Go-Jek submitted all its TNC requirements, under a Filipino venture, Velox Technology. Newspapers published the LTFRB suspension on Aug. 15, and became effective Aug. 29. Delgra acknowledged that the firm had beaten the deadline. Meanwhile, under the Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018, Velox Technology’s application can be deemed approved 20 workdays after filing, since LTFRB did not object. There are yet no implementing rules for the Act, however; then again, LTFRB looks silly foot-dragging. Delgra says LTFRB will tackle the issue in Jan., if at all. The 2.5 million ride-hailers will have to grin and bear more price surges and service drops from the monopoly this Christmastime.

The Delgra-Lizada tiff showed thrice before in LTFRB rulings. These had to do with stiffer guidelines on taxis, the recent P2-increase then P1-decrease in jeepney fares, and bus franchises in Mindoro. Members of the House of Reps committee on transportation have twitted the agency for leaning toward certain vested interests.

The way to disprove such accusation is through transparency.

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Beaten but unbowed, UP students trudged from the basketball coliseum Wed. nevertheless planning a celebratory bonfire. After all, they had reached the finals against formidable Ateneo, a reason to rejoice. UP grads of the ‘80s even cheered, “It’s all right, it’s okay, we’re still sexy anyway.” The last time they had yelled their throats off was in 1986, when the UP Fighting Maroons became champions. They were in their late teens and early ‘20s then, now grannies struggling to fit into old t-shirts emblazoned with the names of game heroes Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc. Texts furiously were sent to Ateneo friends to say that they bet the latter had played scared, because the UP Maroons had not lost a Finals game in 32 years. Some even challenged the Blue Eagles, “See you in 2050. Same time, same place!”

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A free Christmas concert by the Philippines’ best, only this Saturday, Dec. 8, at the UP-Diliman Oblation Ampitheater:

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, under Maestro Hermenigildo Ranera of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, teams up with the UP College of Music for “Pamaskong Handog.”

Orchestral gems, Christmas carols and excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah” by a 130-voice choir of the combined UP Concert Chorus, UP Singing Ambassadors, UP Cherubim and Seraphim, UP Staff Chorale, and UP Chorus Classes.

Mezzo-soprano Prof. Jai Sabas-Aracama to perform chorus and solo.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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