Dear Uber and Grab,
Listen up. I enjoy using your service, I really do. It’s a ton better than using any other mode of public transportation because it’s more convenient, safer, and well, just plain more reliable than taxis, jeepneys, buses, and the MRT combined. But let me put my admiration aside to talk to you about something quite serious: going against the law.
Last year, the Land Transportation Franchising & Regulatory Board (LTFRB) made a landmark decision recognizing you as a new type of public transportation that uses, in their words, “an internet-based technology application or digital platform technology to connect passengers with drivers using their personal vehicles.” The LTFRB even coined the term TNC or Transportation Network Company to describe you while TNVS or Transportation Network Vehicle Service to describe the particular driver that holds a franchise agreement with the TNC.
Along with this recognition, it comes with a long list of requirements (as a refresher, take a look at LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2015-015). And to be accredited, it also comes with certain terms and conditions attached. Now, looking through the terms and conditions or Memorandum Circular 2015-016, it’s stated:
“The accredited TNC shall only allow duly franchised TNVS vehicles to provide a pre-arranged ride through its internet-based digital technology application…
…The accredited TNC shall ensure and assist the Board in monitoring the compliance with Terms and Conditions of a Certificate of Public Convenience to Operate a Transport Network Vehicle Service by its accredited owners/drivers…
…The accredited TNC shall comply with all the applicable laws of the country, and all rules and regulations of the DOTC and the Board [LTFRB].”
And there my good sir, is the rub: you’re regulated. Having agreed to be recognized as a TNC, you have to abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the DOTC and the LTFRB. If one day, they’ll say you have to install disco lights or Santa hats on the roof of your cars, you have no choice (interestingly, the current regulations say that TNVS accredited vehicles have to be marked). You have to follow the rules, no matter how stupid or archaic they are else risk suspension of service or accreditation.
Although the Philippines works under a free economy, the government does have to put regulations in place to keep certain businesses in check. Case in point: The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and their work to regulate the cost of text messaging and internet speeds. The NTC always seems one step behind, but imagine if the duopoly was left unchecked? We’ll all be chanting #GlobeNotAHero and #SmartMagnanakaw and these two companies will just shrug it off and do nothing about it.
It’s the same thing with other basic goods like food, medicine, toll fees, transportation fares, and heck, even real estate. They are all regulated, because it protects the basic rights of the consumer. And while it’s arguable that the use of TNC constitutes a basic right, it does form a part of public transportation which is regulated by the LTFRB, whether you like it or not.
Yes, social media has spoken and yes, celebrities are making everyone sign a Change.org petition, and yes, even I, a loyal Uber user, agree with them, too: TNCs are the best thing that’s ever happened to public transportation in the Philippines. It’s enabled me—essentially a security conscious praning to get around Metro Manila without the need of a driver. It’s given me the freedom and security to be mobile whenever I need to be.
I understand that by now, the supply of TNVS operators would have been slashed by 80 percent (according to your estimates) and the corresponding surge pricing and wait times would have also increased as a result. But, also remember that two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, the LTFRB is giving you a hard time and yes, they’re being dicks about it; but no, it doesn’t give you the authority to skirt the rules. It doesn’t give you the mandate to railroad the terms and conditions of your franchise just because “we’re doing good.” You provide a convenience. You provide a great service for the Filipino consumer. But you do also have to be a law abiding corporate citizen of this country as well.
Unfortunately for you, Uber and Grab, you’re not exactly left with options here. You may argue that you were pushed to a corner with the DOTC and LTFRB threatening to impound vehicles, considering them as “colorum” before. And yes, you can argue that the LTFRB is troublesome because they have stalled the issuance of new franchises. But the fact that you’ve agreed to the terms and conditions set forth by your regulating body, the very same terms and conditions you’ve helped create, then I’m sorry to say, but there’s little choice but to abide by it.
You’ve always presented yourself as a service-oriented company, one that aims to help solve Manila’s traffic situation. Now is the time to stand up for that belief. While I’ll continue to use your service, and tell people to use it, too; it’s time to stop whining, pay your dues, and earn my respect. It’s about time that you not only bring public transportation to the next level, but corporate governance as well.