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Opinion

MC taxi-hailing needs a law

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

With our country’s problem on acute shortage of mass transport vehicles, motorcycle-taxi (MC) hailing services have become the most popular choice for alternative road travel in traffic-prone Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas. It has been made even more convenient with options to choose from among the multiple transport network companies (TNC) and their transport network vehicle service (TNVS).

Most recently, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) opened 8,000 slots for TNVS to increase the maximum number of vehicles operating for TNCs such as Grab Philippines, JoyRide and ToktokGo, OWTO, and ePickMeUp. As approved by the LTFRB, they will provide ride-hailing services to the public through its mobile application (Apps) across the country.

But while Filipino commuters suffer from this daily grind and difficulties to go to and fro places, it is rather disturbing to know about the raging intramurals among key players here in the two-wheeled MC taxi-hailing app industry. As it turns out, there is not even law yet passed by Congress to allow and regulate MC taxi-hailing as a public conveyance under our existing Land Transport Code.

This we found out from this week’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast news forum last Wednesday at the Café Adriatico in Remedios Circle in Malate, Manila. Joining us in these discussions were, namely, Land Transportation Office (LTO) Director Alex Abaton; Primo Morillo of the Passenger Forum; Terry Ridon, Infrawatch PH Convenor, and Wayne Jacinto, general manager of “Move It” whose MC taxi-hailing app business is in the middle of the intramurals in the industry.

“Move It” is one of the three firms included in the government’ pilot testing of the MC taxi along with two other players, namely, the DBDOYC Inc.’s Angkas, and JoyRide. The pilot testing was upon the imprimatur of the 18th Congress in connection with several proposed bills seeking to regulate the MC taxi business in the Philippines. To this end, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) was tasked to form an inter-agency technical working group (TWG) to undertake the pilot testing.

The intramurals erupted following the entry of Grab in August this year and bought into “Move It.” The smallest of the three players in terms of the company size and number of riders employed, “Move It” has been under fire for supposedly giving “backdoor entry” to Grab in the MC taxi-hailing industry.

The fear apparently was based on the fact that a big chunk of ride-hailing services is currently operated by the Grab in the four-wheeled TNCs industry all over the Philippines. It first bought out Uber in 2018. However, it got stalled initially after the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) questioned the merger as leading to monopoly of the industry. The two merged TNCs paid the PCC-imposed fines, clearing the way for Grab’s full operations and Uber left the Philippines.

The Grab now ventured into the two-wheeled MC taxi-hailing services through acquisition of “Move It.” At the Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Jacinto cited Grab’s buying entirely “Move It” was a business move done to boost their MC taxi-hailing services to commuters and provide more jobs to prospective riders. Jacinto stressed the combined resources strengthened the capacity of “Move it” and Grab and boosted the MC taxi-hailing app services available to commuters. Thus, he noted, “Move It” has doubled its riders to 2,000 riders and paying more taxes due to the government.

Jacinto was formerly a top executive of Grab but was seconded to “Move It” after it was acquired. According to Jacinto, Grab Philippines secured prior approval to purchase MOVE IT’s operations from both the LTO and the LTFRB, presumably including the Securities Exchange Commission. “Move It” has been transformed into independent subsidiary MC taxi app of Grab. Thus, Jacinto strongly takes exceptions to claim there was “back door entry” when Grab acquired “Move It.”

“If this is a backdoor entry, then where is the front door?” riposted the “Move It” top executive.

Speaking for fellow commuters, Morillo concurred to the need of the local MC taxi-hailing industry to provide wider choices for the people that can serve their mobility needs. Morillo pointed out thousands of commuters would take MC taxi-hailing services rather than stand and wait at the long lines or get stranded due to lack of efficient mass transport vehicles.

As far as the LTO is concerned, Abaton welcomed additional and more MC taxi-hailing platforms as “the new thing” in the Philippines. “There is nothing illegal per se. We need only the guidelines (of the law) that will govern its regulations,” Abaton clarified. Hence, Abaton pointed out, a new law must amend the Land Transportation and Traffic Code (Republic Act 4136) that limits PUVs only to four-wheeled vehicles.

This can be done, Abaton disclosed, because the TWG, did already a successful pilot testing of MC taxi-hailing services in the Metro Manila, Cebu, in the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Gen. Santos, and Davao. A former Congressman, Ridon called upon the MC taxi-hailing industry to stop these “intramurals” among themselves and sit down instead with the officials concerned at the DOTr to re-start the process of the TWG.

Actually, there were House Bills (HB) approved on third and final reading during the 17th and the 18th Congress. But for unknown reasons, the same House-approved bills never got approved at the Senate. The latest one was HB 8959 approved in February 2019. Alas though, it languished again at the Senate.

A check with the present 19th Congress, there are 13 House bills filed that are all up for second reading. To cut short the legislative approval process, Section 48 of the House Rules should apply. After all, HB 8959 already went through the process.

Only then when we have this law, the LTFRB will be mandated to set “reasonable” fares and other charges” for these MC taxis, including safeguards for its passengers and riders and ensure road safety.

LTFRB

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